Masthead - Climate Control Journal

‘One cup at a time’

The cold chain may not come to mind when one thinks of a hot cup of coffee, but for Andrés Londoño and Santiago Londoño, third- and fourth-generation farmers of Colombian Exotic Coffee, this is the key to unlocking the critical tastes of coffee drinkers in the Middle East, which is a region known for its love of the brew.

Andrés Londoño and Santiago Londoño

“Our goal is to change people’s view on coffee, one cup at a time,” Andrés says, adding that the family has been farming in Colombia for nearly 100 years and selling the beans to different parts of the world. His cousin, Santiago adds that although the company is new to the Middle East market, it is confident about the appeal of its products, given its history. “Our main goal is to introduce our unique varieties, as these have never been seen before,” he says. “We take immense care of our product from start to finish, we feel that it is just as important for the end user to understand the great work that goes into it, and that is why we plan on educating the Middle Eastern market on what the procedure is.”

Every step of the way

Andrés Londoño

There are different factors that must be considered in green coffee quality, Andrés says, and names variables such as flavour profiles or scores, physical preparation, shelf life and safety for the consumer as the most crucial. “All these are carefully considered in our farming practices,” he says, “but we have also noticed from different research and our own experiments that the storage conditions afterwards affect all these factors of quality – temperature being one of the most important variables for these changes.” Santiago, in agreement, adds that this was an important realization, considering traditionally, only moisture content has been the indicator for the preservation of coffee. “We have been researching and experimenting in our farms and warehouses and found out that when the three variables – water activity, moisture content and temperature – are not controlled, the sensory and physical quality can decrease substantially. In coffee, a slight decrease in flavour and physical quality is problematic.”

This also has ramifications in terms of safety, Santiago adds. “Not many people know that these fungi produce a toxin called Ochratoxin-A, which is resistant to temperature, which means it cannot be degraded in the roasting process or preparation of the beverage, and when drunk, the human body is not capable of liberating it, accumulating in it for long periods. Ochratoxin-A has also been associated with cancer development,” he says. “For this reason, assuring the proper conditions for storage and transportation not only helps us maintain the cup and physical quality but also helps prevents moulds and fungus to develop inside the bean, which, in terms of food safety, is very important.”

Santiago Londoño

Andrés points out: “The benefit behind the mentioned features is that there is full transparency through unfiltered and untampered data, which will also allow us to provide feedback and request corrective actions, if necessary in real time or in future shipping. Once the product arrives at the DMCC warehouse, we will locate a data logger to record both variables. These will be checked periodically; deviations will be notified to the coffee centre, and corrective actions will be requested.”

Investment in quality solutions

Santiago also highlights the investment in data, adding that presently, the farms utilise a private software that was developed for the coffee industry and the different parts of its value chain. “It has a specific tool for each step of the value chain with accurate sample registration, monitors drying and storage conditions, green grading, sample roasting and cupping,” he says. “This data is useful to control and monitor our process and take corrective actions, if necessary. It can be easily shared with customers, as well. The idea in the near future is to integrate the last part of our value chain, which is the transit from Colombia and the storage and commercialisation here in the Emirates and even add the feedback of our customers; this way, we can really ensure quality of the whole coffee chain.”

A long-term outlook

The cost of implementing and maintaining a process cannot be avoided. However, for Santiago, it is more important to think of the benefits that such investment offers. “Specialty coffee quality is measured within Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) standards, which are between 80 and 100 points,” he explains. “If you produce at the farm a coffee that is at 89 points grade and is a complex exotic variety, like Geisha, you can sell it up to USD 70 per kg. We have calculated that during the 2-3 months transit between Colombia and the UAE, this coffee could lose 2-3 points in grade, because temperature and humidity degrades quality, so an 89-score coffee becomes an 86, which would be sold for USD 35 per kg, which means a loss of USD 35 per kg. If you bring 1.000 kg of this single exotic coffee in a container, it means you would lose USD 35,000 in this single lot. Keeping a complete cold chain from Colombia to UAE for a single container can cost about USD 20.000. It means a return of about 175% in terms of quality preservation.”


The Middle East’s construction sector remains resilient despite the complexities brought on by 2020. For stakeholders, the resiliency stems from the sector’s ability to withstand difficulties even prior to COVID-19. Providing an example, Majd Fayyad, Technical Manager, Emirates Green Building Council, says that in 2018, the growing oversupply of high-end residential and commercial properties saw investment yields start to fall, way before the pandemic triggered further reductions in construction contract awards in 2020. Fayyad says that though there has been a decline in the value of new contracts in the GCC region – for instance, it went down by 40% to just over USD 4 billion in April 2020 – the outlook for 2021, according to Deloitte, is more optimistic, with the UAE’s GDP set to grow 2.5%.

Phillipa Grant

For Phillipa Grant, Partner and Director of Sustainability, AESG, the construction pipeline is not as dry as people may think. “I think there has been a shift, and Dubai has become a bit more of a regional design hub for the Middle East,” she says. “There is a lot of work being done in Dubai, which covers the wider GCC region, as well as in Africa; so, for the whole MENA region, a lot of new construction is still going on, which is managing to keep the architects and engineers within Dubai busy.”

A more pressing issue affecting project pipelines is the shift in the overall energy intensity in buildings following the onset of COVID-19,with Fayyad pointing out that social distancing measures and teleworking reduced people’s use of commercial buildings, while increasing energy consumption at home. He adds that in the first half of 2020, electricity use in residential buildings in some countries grew by 20-30% while falling by around 10% per cent in commercial building*. “Further, the 2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction states that CO2 emissions from the operation of buildings have increased to their highest level in 2019,” he says.

Majd Fayyad

Overall, Fayyad says there is ample opportunity in 2021 to look at the way buildings are utilised. He points out that these factors are increasing focus on implementing green building best practices in upcoming developments and driving momentum for retrofitting practices, which has already been a strong focus in recent years in the move to achieve greater energy efficiency and reduced emissions and costs. Azmi S Aboulhoda, Director, EMergy Consultancy, shares a similar opinion. “In the UAE, attention towards energy retrofitting has been increasing for several years now,” he says. “It is moving in parallel with the new construction. Recently, few steps have been taken in Saudi Arabia to govern the business and establish guidelines and regulations. With the increase in number of people working remotely, a new concern has been raised that will push the retrofit business in the region towards homes.” Aboulhoda points out that retrofitting holds strong opportunity to enhance the value of buildings and that it will need to be considered not just from an energy perspective but also in the way we use spaces.

Azmi S Aboulhoda

Ronak Monga, Segment Development Manager – Commercial Building Services, Grundfos, says that the same trend can be seen in Oman and Kuwait, as well. “Many of the buildings you see in these countries have now existed for more than ten years,” he says. “These old buildings present a high energy savings potential. Business sectors that operate their buildings, such as hospitals, schools and hotels, have the highest energy savings opportunity in their existing infrastructure. Not only will retrofit ensure smooth operation and maintenance, but it will also significantly reduce operational expenditure, which then improves their bottom line.” He adds that with the pandemic situation, businesses are focusing on keeping operational expense to a minimum to survive the global economic impact brought by COVID-19.


To date, a lot of the retrofitting initiatives are directed towards addressing the changes in energy consumption profiles. Fayyad points out that with mass teleworking and eLearning shifting activities to the residential subsector and several major companies allowing their workforce the freedom to work from home, existing commercial and office spaces, undoubtedly, need to be adapted, retrofitted and/or repurposed to cater to occupancy profile, be it partial or full. Aboulhoda says that this is the main concern driving building and business owners towards retrofitting, as they will be paying almost the same amount of utility bills, despite the reduced occupancy.

Ronak Monga

Grant adds that these trends have a long-term effect on discussions surrounding office spaces and that this will lead to different streams of thoughts from architects and designers. “A lot of building owners are looking more at flexibility and the use of space in different and more innovative ways,” she says. “This is better than having a vacant space, which is a waste of energy, as you will still need to keep it running; and also, there is the cost impact. So, there will be focus on flexibility, looking at how spaces can be used and how we can make the most of existing stock we have with the changing environment.”

Monga adds that this drastic change in occupancy has brought into focus how buildings perform in part-load conditions – and usually, the efficiency during part load is a focus during design – but has not brought much into focus when buildings are in operation. “This drastic change in occupancy in buildings has brought into attention both during new projects and retrofits how various systems operate in part load,” he says. Fayyad says that a lot of the older building stock is not equipped to handle these challenges, as the existing control systems are outdated or, in some cases, not even present. “Building retrofits in these scenarios can allow owners and facility management to respond adequately using demand-controlled control strategies,” he says. “It not only allows them to save energy and water but also gives them the tools necessary to respond to different occupancy levels. They are also able to record the time-of-use and the energy profile throughout the operations to gather data and optimise their controls and operations.”

Fayyad says that in the UAE, there is an enormous potential in the buildings and construction sector to increase resource and material efficiencies, drive carbon emissions reductions and stimulate economic growth. “Based on the EmiratesGBC’s Building Efficiency Accelerator Project Report, the best hotel and hotel apartment performers consume 58% less energy and 65% less water per unit area than the worst performers in the category,” he says. “The best performers among schools consume 61% less energy and 84% less water per unit area compared to the worst. Among malls, the lowest consumer uses 35% less energy and 58% less water per area compared to the highest consumer.” Fayyad points out that this shows the strong potential for savings and operational efficiencies that can be achieved through remedial actions, such as audits, retrofits, energy management and the use of awareness campaigns or trainings to drive changes in behaviour.

Grant says that there has been a lot of push from a sustainability perspective. “That’s only going to increase, because there is going to be more and more pressure to reduce energy consumption, improve efficiency, reduce carbon, and hit international, regional and local targets,” she says. “So, the pressure is going to mount from a sustainability perspective, which is great, because I think it needs to happen. There needs to be that pressure, and we’re still not on track to hit targets, and there is a lot more that needs to be done across all areas.” An area that Grant says has also been gaining better awareness in retrofits is fire and life safety, especially in existing high-rises, which typically face risk from poor cladding.


In addition to energy-related and fire-and-safety-related building performance, retrofits have placed greater emphasis on occupant health. Aboulhoda says that nowadays, the energy-retrofitting projects are being combined with indoor environmental quality (IEQ) measures through projects that can be categorised as retro-commissioning, where energy is not the only or main concern. “This will attract investors looking forward to overcome the financial crisis of the current and any future pandemics,” he says. This move, Fayyad says, is especially evident in the retail and hospitality sectors. “Consumer confidence and spending were influenced, as employers took steps to manage the impact of COVID-19 by reducing salaries and cutting jobs,” he says. “In light of the ease of restrictions, lockdowns and the availability of vaccines, the tourism and retail sectors are slowly picking up.

These sectors are looking to increase customer confidence and, as a result, are following not only social distancing protocols but also the overall efficient operations of their facilities.” Fayyad points to ASHRAE and REHVA, which have released guidance for safe HVAC operations for the prevention of transmission of COVID-19 indoors, and these practices stem from proper IAQ and IEQ practices. “Increased outdoor-to-indoor ventilation and filtration, however, does increase energy consumption, and the only way to mitigate this is through efficient operations and/or retrofits,” he says. “This is not only limited to retail or hospitality but other sectors, as well, such as schools and commercial buildings. In critical times such as this, owners are increasingly aware that their buildings’ operations should not only have minimal costs but also be safe.”

Fayyad adds that the guidance developed by ASHRAE and REHVA rely on the core principles of sustainable and green buildings. “Research has shown that health and wellbeing features have a positive effect on employee retention and mental health as well reduced operational costs. This is a win-win situation for building owners and tenants, as owners do not have to spend as much capital on maintenance and operations,” he says. “Tenants, in turn, enjoy the benefits of a healthier indoor environment and do not have to pay as much on their utilities. Several businesses, especially in hospitality and retail, are now obliged to ensure health and safety in buildings as a top priority. Their business revenue is now more than ever related to how seriously they take actions to ensure the safety of their guests, visitors and occupants.”

AboulHoda echoes this, saying that IEQ has become crucial for a successful retrofit. “COVID-19 has increased the awareness among building and business owners,” he says. “Further, COVID-19 has added another dimension of retrofit measures, such as economisers, which will more efficiently introduce outside air in buildings, and personalised systems, which will avoid running full systems when partial occupancies take place. The measures taken by building and business owners are more focused into concentrated hygiene practices that can be observed by occupants and visitors and can result in some kind of assurance. However, system-wise measures are yet to evolve, since they encounter high capital investments.”

For Grant, there was already a definite shift in mindset toward health and wellness being considered as part of sustainability even before the pandemic. “Buildings are expanding to have that social health and welfare aspect from a design perspective, which is really great to see,” she says. “This was already happening, pre-COVID, and of course, COVID shone a light on health on a global scale to make sure people have healthy and safe spaces to live and work. I would expect additional drivers to that growing area and field. It will shift the way residential design is considered.”

Monga is in agreement, adding that pre-COVID, there was a lot of talk about improvement of employee productivity in relation to IAQ and IEQ “But the safety and health aspect of it has increased even more during the pandemic,” he says. “COVID-19 has also increased the focus on water disinfection – controlling the growth of any micro-organisms, like Legionella, in the water that we use on a day-to-day basis is equally important to stop the spread of communicable diseases.” Grant believes while there has been positive movement, more needs to be done. “I would still say, we are not seeing as much activity in retrofit as we would like to,” she says. “It would be great from a sustainability perspective to see that part of the market incentivised more to promote improvements in the existing buildings stock. I know there are regulations and government incentives coming into play. I should say that would hopefully stimulate more retrofit activities. We are hoping to still see more happen.”

Fayyad agrees. “While the efforts taken by the UAE government in this direction are commendable, we must continue to push the building and construction sector towards greater efficiencies and to lower the carbon emissions,” he says. “We only have a few years to meet the Paris Agreement targets, and now is the right time to start looking at deep retrofits as a key step in this journey.” Fayyad recommends achieving deep buildings retrofits, targeting 50% energy reduction by decreasing energy demand and implementing energy efficiency measures before adding on-site renewables. “In fact, 50% energy reduction is a realistic target for poor performing buildings, as our Deep Retrofit Study identified,” he says. Elaborating more on this study, Fayyad says that all respondents showed a positive position, with a majority agreeing that deep retrofits are achievable in the UAE with an acceptable payback period using the current technologies available in the market. “While most in the private sector agree that retrofits should be mandated, the developers prefer that building rating schemes should be made compulsory, instead, or retrofits made voluntary with more financial incentives developed,” he says. “Developers also agreed that an annual reduction target of 11-20% (in kWh) is adequate, should retrofits be mandated.”

Monga says that possibly having an incentive-based model, where higher commercial value is given to energy-efficient buildings, would be a “dream come true”. “Denmark has a similar concept – where a home or a building that is rated higher in energy efficiency can demand higher rent and selling price,” he says. “Therefore, incentivising the building developers also incentivises the potential tenants or buyers, as it helps them save on energy and heating costs in the long run.”  In the region, Fayyad adds that the top three challenges to deep retrofits identified by the respondents were lack of landlord interest, lack of financial incentives and low tariff rates. “The results also showed there is greater need of market awareness of both retrofit projects and the  expertise of the retrofit market,” he says. “EmiratesGBC recommends that ESCOs should report their project savings transparently and consistently to build confidence and repertoire within the industry to encourage the public to pursue more retrofits.” Fayyad adds that with the support of regulations and incentives, a decarbonisation roadmap can be realised.

Building for the “new normal”

As the world continues to grapple with an ever-shifting economic landscape, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders in the building sector across the GCC region have observed how the pandemic has triggered an evaluation and reassessment of priorities. Ashok Jha, Head FM and Retrofit Projects, Universal Voltas, points out that the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19 has prompted many organisations to take actions they have been putting off for some time, including launching new digital services and evolving their business models, enabling greater flexibility in their working and implementing cost optimisation measures.

However, Jha says, perhaps the most notable trend would be the move towards a greater number of retrofit projects in the region. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the oil prices plummeted to one of the lowest levels and government revenues went down in the GCC region,” he says. “This has led to reduced spending across all sectors, including new construction, with the current market seeing greater push towards shallow retrofitting, deep retrofitting, energy conservation and reducing the building carbon footprint in the existing buildings to make them more sustainable.” Jha says that since the number of existing buildings in Oman, Kuwait and the UAE is very high compared to new buildings, there was also a need to address the physical deterioration of the buildings, due to functional and economic obsolescence, and to make them more sustainable. “Because of this, there is a surge in demand for the retrofitting of the existing buildings across the GCC region,” he says (see sidebar).

Andrea Di Gregorio, Executive Director, Reem, Ras Al Khaimah Municipality, also believes the region is poised to see a strong pipeline of retrofit projects. “More focus is being put in refurbishing existing buildings, to bring them up-to-speed with the latest best practices in sustainability,” he says. “We see an increase in interest from building owners in retrofit activities, and we expect this interest to further increase throughout 2021 and in the coming years.”

Energy efficiency and sustainability 

Another major driver for retrofits is the move towards energy efficient and sustainable practices, which has long been heralded by experts in the sector. Jha points out that because of the detrimental impact of buildings on the environment, with occupied buildings and the construction sector accounting for 36% of the global energy consumption and nearly 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions according to International Energy Agency (IEA), the UAE has begun to actively transition into smart and sustainable cities, which has turned the focus on the energy efficiency of the buildings, specifically existing ones. 

In addition to its impact on overall sustainability efforts, much of the move can be attributed to growing awareness on return of investment in terms of reduced operational cost. As Jha points out, retrofitting primarily refers to the measures being taken to replace legacy energy and utility systems with new and energy-efficient technologies. “These technologies not only reduce energy consumption and decrease carbon emissions but also lower maintenance costs, improve safety, enhance productivity, boost property valuations and also prolong the useful life of the assets and the building as a whole,” he says. “In a nutshell, we can say that OPEX of the building reduces and the asset value increases. Hence, it is becoming important day by day to retrofit buildings to not only make them more sustainable for the future but also to derive economical value by reducing the operational cost and, in turn, optimise the rentals and make them more lucrative for the tenants.”

Weighing in, Di Gregorio says that sustainable buildings often result in lower life cycle cost of the building itself. “If sustainability features are carefully selected, operational savings – in terms of energy and water usage and equipment maintenance – typically exceed any incremental investments that those features require,” he says. “For this reason, in a perfect market, where developers are able to fairly monetise their investments in higher quality buildings, we would expect for tenants any rent premiums for more sustainable buildings to be exceeded by the value of operational savings.”

Jha adds that as energy prices continue to rise, the relative benefits of energy efficiency will become increasingly important, and this is leading to a huge surge in demand for equipment, such as Smart LED lights and motion sensors, air curtains and FAHUs, energy-efficient AHUs, FCUs or split units and VAV systems. This has also led to greater demand for water usage reduction through the use of low-flow fixtures, sensors, waterless urinals and low-flush WCs, and also for photovoltaic panels on rooftops to generate electricity from the solar power, among other solutions. 

A renewed focus on IAQ 

While the return on investment (ROI) from retrofitting for energy efficiency is becoming clear, stakeholders are hopeful that the new wave of retrofits would also accommodate enhancements of indoor air quality (IAQ), which has been typically overlooked over the past years. Di Gregorio says that he believes this would be the case. “There is increasing interest in IAQ, partly driven by COVID-19 concerns,” he says. “Some awareness and technical barriers are there; nonetheless we foresee development in this area in the future.”

Jha shares a similar opinion. He says: “Fear of pandemic is looming large in the minds of the people, and therefore, while carrying out the retrofitting of their buildings, owners are ensuring that retrofit projects also take into consideration IAQ of the buildings, where people are currently spending more than 90% of their time and also to reduce the chances of contamination through virus, bacteria, moulds and fungi.”

Di Gregorio says there is a lot of focus on safety and security from building owners, particularly in what concerns disinfection of common areas. “This sometimes adds to other measures, like filtration, turning into improved air quality,” he says. Jha adds that some of the measures that building owners are taking include Demand Control Ventilation through C02 sensors, fitting volume control dampers, ultraviolet lamps in AHUs, ultraviolet germicide irradiation and MERV 13/14 filters. He further adds that there has been an increase in the use of humidifiers and dehumidifiers to maintain humidity in the range of 40-60%, where the microbial and fungal growth is minimal.

Jha also says that the majority of the offices are allowing their staff to work from home and that people are spending more than 90% of their time indoors. “This further necessitates that apt measures are taken by the occupants to ensure proper lux levels, ergonomics and IAQ, as these will have a profound impact on their health and wellbeing and, in turn, impact their productivity,” he says. “Hence, there cannot be a better time than now to address the Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) issues, if any.” Jha says these are the factors driving a lot of investment being done by the property owners in the built-environment to retrofit their buildings to ensure proper IAQ against the traditional retrofit, where emphasis was mainly towards energy efficiency.

Making a case for retrofits 

Keeping in mind the tangible and intangible benefits of retrofitting, Di Gregorio believes there is more than enough evidence to drive building owners to invest in such initiatives. “If building owners are not thinking about retrofits, they definitely should!” he says. “Retrofit projects tend to have very favourable returns. We are observing that for comprehensive retrofits of commercial buildings in Ras Al Khaimah, the payback time is 3-5 years. And the contracting standards that are being adopted often provide forms of guarantees for the investor on those returns.”

Jha, agreeing, says that in spite of the change in the occupancy profile of buildings, property owners must continue to retrofit within the built-environment. “Retrofitting of existing buildings offers tremendous opportunities for improving asset performance in terms of utilities,” he says. “Retrofitting also offers a potential upside in the overall performance of the building through improved energy efficiency, increased staff productivity, reduced maintenance costs, and better thermal comfort.” Jha believes that such key drivers should serve as a motivation and incentive for building owners, who are on the fence about investing in retrofit projects.

A complete 180

In view of the shifting political landscape, how will the new administration affect the country’s commitment to climate change mitigation?

It’s going to be a complete 180 from the [Donald] Trump administration. In [Joe] Biden’s plan, he mentions “a historic investment” in upgrading four million commercial buildings to return almost a quarter of the savings from retrofits to cash-strapped state and local governments. Specifically, it says that he will “mobilize a trained and skilled American workforce to manufacture, install, service and maintain high-efficiency LED lighting, electric appliances, and advanced heating and cooling systems that run cleaner and less costly”. 

Given our focus on energy savings, I think that this will be great for business as well as for building owners. Some suggest that large rebates may be involved to directly incentivise businesses and make it affordable to pursue these upgrades. 

That being said, although the Trump administration was not at all focused on energy conservation, I found that individual building owners and managers were still pursuing these measures during the Trump administration. Most organisations in the US are interested in conserving energy and saving money. With government focus and incentives, it will just accelerate the demand.

In view of COVID-19, do you see a greater uptake of IAQ equipment throughout the country? 

Yes, for sure. However, these things come with a cost, and with COVID destroying the economy, there is going to have to be some kind of funding or incentives given to get these types of retrofits in place. I will give you an example. Two of our clients in the US requested ultraviolet lighting proposals to be retrofitted into their air handlers and FCUs. We put together the proposals and delivered them; however, neither has been approved yet due to the difficulties these buildings are facing financially due to delinquent tenant rent payments and occupancy.

Another interesting fact is that most of these IAQ retrofits are not intended to deliver energy savings. That is another hurdle to getting these projects approved. One last point – and I don’t think this is limited to the US – customers in the UAE have also asked for ultraviolet lighting to be installed, and it is still difficult to get the approval here, for the same reasons mentioned earlier.

Has there been a heavier-than-usual concentration on the air side of things from building owners, tenants and manufacturers?

The EPA has recommended that guidance provided by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) for managing IAQ during the current pandemic be followed. ASHRAE’s statement is as follows: “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.”

The two solutions we have seen implemented in the buildings we service in the USA are AHU filter upgrades and increasing the intake of outside air into the building. Both of these changes are very effective and relatively easy to implement as well as low cost.

How has the change in occupancy profile thrown everything into a state of chaos in terms of commercial and residential property requirements? Will this be a driving force towards more retrofit projects? 

In terms of energy conservation measures, this has thrown everything into a state of chaos. One, the commercial buildings are hardly occupied, which has led to energy bills dropping dramatically. However, with less occupancy comes less rent, thus less money to invest in retrofit projects. In addition, building owners, who are still looking for energy savings, are hesitant to move forward, because they are not sure if and when tenants will be returning to the buildings, so to be honest, unless it’s a well-funded customer, this could actually slow the conservation efforts.

Residential buildings face the same issue. People are leaving the dense, populated cities, preferring the suburbs right now, leaving residential multi-family buildings unoccupied and no rents being paid. Until we get herd immunity with the vaccine, and people are comfortable returning to the cities to work and live, this will continue to be challenging.

How have these trends potentially influenced building owners? 

As I stated earlier, most building owners are hesitant even if they want to move forward on new projects, given the current situation. However, some forward thinkers, with ability and the confidence that things will return to normal, are taking this time to invest in conservation efforts, so that when the buildings are occupied, they can take advantage of the maximum savings.

Have there been efforts to retrofit among specialised facilities such as healthcare? 

At the moment, it is difficult to even get a meeting with a healthcare facility in the US. They are overwhelmed and have overcapacity with COVID patients and are focused on saving lives before anything else. Their priority right now is the conservation of life.

Has the pandemic finally trained the spotlight on the importance of having a balance between energy efficiency and IAQ? 

I think that yes, people will be investing in IAQ, or at least investigating their options, especially healthcare facilities and the like. However, in my experience, to be honest, it’s a tough sale, unless there’s a Return on Investment (ROI) in the project. Having said that, UV lighting does have some energy-saving benefits, so maybe a combination of IAQ and energy savings should be highlighted to the building owners in the presentation of these retrofit solutions.

Retrofitting in Kuwait, Oman and the UAE

Ashok Jha

COVID-19 has had a significant adverse impact on organisations, people’s health, their livelihoods and the economy at large in the GCC region countries, says Ashok Jha, Head, FM & Retrofit Projects, Universal Voltas LLC. However, Jha is quick to point out that while the duration and severity of COVID-19’s impact on economies and sectors will undoubtedly vary, companies and governments in the GCC region have done well to set in motion a “look ahead, anticipate, innovate and adjust” roadmap, which has led the construction sector to focus on energy optimisation and retrofitting in existing buildings, which is a key to sustainable construction.



Citing figures from Global Data, a leading data and analytics company, Jha says that Oman’s construction industry contracted sharply in 2020, plummeting by nearly around -10.3%. “The industry is struggling with challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak, low oil prices, and the impact of sovereign credit rating downgrades,” he says. Further compounding the downside risks to the outlook for the industry, the Omani Government has had to rationalise spending.”

Jha adds that given the limited prospects for the government to boost investment in infrastructure and other investment projects, a recovery in the construction sector is expected to be very slow. “Global Data currently expects the construction industry to fall further in 2021, with output contracting by -5.8%,” he says. “The fiscal plan by the Oman Government is intended to reduce public debt, increase the state’s reserves, and diversify revenue away from the oil sector.”

Owing to these factors, Jha believes that new construction spend will be very minimal, and more impetus will be on the retrofitting, deep retrofitting, fit-outs and energy performance optimisation in the built-environment in Oman.


Kuwait has faced similar challenges, Jha says, adding that the construction market shrunk in the year 2020 at about -9.5% approximately, as per Global Data. “The construction industry is struggling with the challenges presented by the outbreak of COVID-19, low oil prices and the impact of sovereign credit rating downgrades,” he says. “Because of this, focus is more towards existing buildings in Kuwait.”

Jha adds that within the built-environment in Kuwait, residential buildings constitute around 81%, commercial buildings are 11%, whereas government buildings constitute four per cent; the remaining four per cent includes commercial, industrial, agricultural and services. “Also, Kuwait has one of the highest per capita electricity consumption and carbon footprint globally, which further necessitates the retrofitting of the buildings to make them more sustainable,” he says. “All the above factors, along with the economic strain, is forcing Kuwait to focus on energy conservation, deep retrofitting, retrofitting and fit-outs in the built-environment with a very minimal spending on new construction.”


Sharing observations on the UAE market, in particular, Jha says that the COVID-19 outbreak, coupled with low oil prices, has led the construction output in the UAE to contract by nearly 4.8% in 2020, but that a rebound is expected in 2021, as per Global Data. “New project opportunities are expected to be minimal in the coming quarters, as the government is consolidating its widening fiscal debt and COVID-19-related force majeure,” he said. “Over the medium- to longer-term, government investment will remain focused on upgrading physical infrastructure and reforming the financing and regulatory environment.”

Jha adds that the UAE has set high targets for building retrofit, which are reflected in the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy. “The latter targets an overall 30% reduction in energy and water use by 2030,” he says. “To support this, Etihad ESCO aims to retrofit 30,000 buildings in the next 10 years and generate 1.68TWh energy savings and around 5.64 BIG of water savings by year 2030.”

‘The UAE leadership has a view of the future – and it is not just tomorrow’

Climate Ambassador Tomas Anker Christensen

Congratulations on your appointment as Denmark’s Climate Ambassador. Could you speak on the potential areas of cooperation between the UAE and Denmark?

I think it’s remarkable the far-sighted leadership the UAE has taken as an oil- and gas-producing country. The leaders have a view of the future – and the future that is not just tomorrow, not just five or 10 years, but they are thinking ahead to 20 or 50 years from now.

We are talking about the major transformation of energy systems. The largest solar farms in the world are in the UAE, and a lot of investment is being done in this area. The country is taking energy efficiency in buildings seriously and addressing the challenge of having had, years ago, the highest carbon footprint per inhabitant.

In that sense, cooperation between the UAE and Denmark on energy and other topics related to food and maritime issues makes imminent sense. We are the country in the EU with the largest oil -production. We have oil and gas in the North Sea. But we are slowly ending our exploration of that oil and gas, and in December 2020, the Danish Parliament decided to end fossil extraction in the North Sea by 2050 with a plan for the just transition of impacted workers and a conversion of the oil and gas fields to Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS)].

There is also a huge market for renewable energy, globally, as this transformation [can be seen] worldwide. In Denmark, we are building better and taller wind farms and offshore wind farms, including over the next two years in two new energy islands. As a result, there has been global interest surrounding Danish windfarm operators and wind constructors, many of whom are now in demand in a number of countries such as the US, Korea and Australia.

Could you speak more about the competitive advantage that countries such as the UAE can have from specialising in sustainable cooling solutions, both in terms of developing the expertise within the country and in terms of pioneering solutions? Do you see this to be a growing market?

The world is undergoing an energy transformation, and the UAE is also very well positioned to be part of it and, in some instances, to lead this transformation. As such, a partnership with a country like Denmark makes great sense.

When it comes to the development of cities, it’s clear that if you look at trends as a whole, [the population] is moving from the countryside to cities at an increased rate. I think the latest figures from UN Habitat and other global organisations is that almost half of the human population lives in cities. We have been going from 30-40% of the population to half, and the trajectory is pointing towards a world where most of the people are in cities.

There have been large movements in the Global South. In China, you have more than 70 cities with more than one million inhabitants, and many are newly constructed with poor quality of buildings that need to be retrofitted and rebuilt. In India, you have a growing middle-class population, and this has led to growth of new buildings in new cities or more modern buildings in new parts of the city. The same trend can be seen in the Gulf region. For a very long time, Dubai was home to most of the cranes in the world. In Africa, large cities that are already big, continue to grow. In Indonesia, we see a population in the process of moving Jakarta to a new island, because it is sinking.

Basically, in many places, the built-environment is not a done deal. We are at the beginning, not at the end. It’s only in older industrial countries in the West that the city structure is permanent. I would think the opportunities for both new buildings and retrofitting are very large, especially in warmer climates, where expertise is needed in challenging environments.

For us, in Denmark, it’s more about reverse engineering our experience with energy efficiency and insulation, and usinge and applying them in the UAE. Also, there would be solutions we need to develop from scratch, based on the circumstances and the physical environment. 

It’s clear that cooling also has some attributes different from heating. [In Denmark], some companies are experimenting with district cooling, but most are district heating, with a lot of combined power and heat plants. Also, some of them are doing this with garbage waste disposal and heat and power. With the more recent climate law, because of the move towards circular economy, we are now looking at recycling and reusing our waste rather than incinerating it.

What can further drive the development of expertise and solutions in the sustainability arena in a country?

A combination of energy pricing and embedding efficiency in building codes and regulation by central and local governments are key here. The building owner and operator might not be interested in building more efficiently because of the perceived cost, and they will try to defer the cost onto the tenants. That means rent goes up, bills go up, and they are not too happy either. That’s always a question for the less well off, that’s also the question of the fair and equitable distribution of the cost and benefit, [[when it comes to implementing sustainable solutions.].

In Denmark, people have been investing in energy efficiency because of energy cost and due to strict regulation since the 1970’s. Because of the cost of energy, there are huge paybacks at a shorter time.

In what ways can the public sector in the GCC region incentivise sustainability initiatives in the built-environment, both in terms of introducing retrofit targets and also ensuring new buildings adhere to higher energy- efficiency goals? 

For one, I would say that educating the general public is extremely important, in terms of the cost, economy, sustainability and potential social benefits.

The very practical education of engineers and economists, integrating energy efficiency into curricula in the built-environment, so that you have your own skilled engineers and technicians ¨to operate systems, do the buildings and learn from it. It is a mentality and way of thinking. We have done it for the last 50 or more years; we didn’t do it before that. It took us a long time and heavy regulation, strong incentives and a lot of private discussion among government and private sector and institutions of higher education to get that sector to operate in an efficient and integrated way. I would encourage public policy makers to think through different dimensions of how to establish a cluster of knowledge and expertise. The young students of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, and they have to make it work 10-15 years down the road.

Government initiative to boost recovery will drive green economy, says Graded Spa

Dubai, UAE, 11 January 2021: The governments in the Middle East region are taking the appropriate measures towards boosting economic recovery following COVID-19, said Giuseppe Gregorini, representative of Graded Spa, an energy solutions provider headquartered in Italy. Gregorini said that in the current development model, governments in the region are boosting public investments in strategic areas, such as economic sectors that add significant value to the economy, the green and innovative economy and inclusive human capital and infrastructure that contribute to greater productivity.

Gregorini said, “Investments may look to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, strengthening the water, food and energy nexus, building the resilience of communities. Public policies and financial decisions may more consciously take account of exposure to climate risks and seek to preserve the region’s natural capital.” He emphasised that the newly created themes serve as fertile ground for the expansion of HVAC technologies and products, which the company has specialised in. “In this historical moment, the collaboration with university research institutes of excellence in the UAE is very important, both for expansion opportunities and for entry into the sector at the forefront of technology,” he said, adding that this will be reflected in the highly anticipated World Expo, scheduled to take place in Dubai in 2021.

Gregorini said that Graded continues to view the UAE as a crucial part of the company’s expansion plans with a focus on renewable energy. “Innovation and new technologies are key in order to keep pace with a market that is expanding at a level that the UAE is,” he said. “To develop these projects, we make use of partnerships with Italian universities and, above all, with research institutes and universities in the UAE, particularly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.” He said that in addition to renewable energy, Graded intends to promote the development and growth of geothermal energy through its GeoGrid Project, which aims to reduce costs and consumption and is tailored to the Emirates.

SAER pumps says reliability is key to winning customer trust in time of COVID-19

DUBAI, UAE, 10, January 2021: Reliability has been crucial for SAER Elettropompe, in terms of maintaining customer relations in the time of COVID-19, Ilaria Favella, the company’s Marketing and Sales representative, said, adding that the decision to keep the production in Italy rather than move it to other countries has played a fundamental role in the company’s ability to strengthen its position in the UAE. “We are giving continuity to our customers and providing a winning, high-quality solution to those who are looking for a supplier in these difficult moments,” she said. “This situation has given us the opportunity to increase customers’ trust.” Favella added that thanks to the Italian production and available stock, Saer has been able to keep the scheduled lead time, as well as win contracts where a short delivery time was required, even during the first phases of the pandemic.

Favella said that SAER has continued to maintain strong links with the GCC region, adding that it was the first market to be developed when the company started exporting from Italy over 50 years ago. Favella said the range of products that is more well-known from the company includes end suction, split casing, high pressure and in-line pumps, as well as submersible pumps and motors,, and applications in the civil, agricultural and industrial fields as well. She added that the company is also positioning itself to address evolving demand for water, which is a critical resource, pointing out that desalination is becoming an important alternative to traditional freshwater resources.

ASHRAE moves to new net-zero-energy global HQ building

ATLANTA, Georgia, United States, 5 November 2020: ASHRAE has moved to its new global headquarters, located at 180 Technology Parkway, Peachtree Corners, Georgia, the Society said through a Press release. ASHRAE began renovations in January 2020 on an existing 66,700 ft2 building, originally built in 1978, on 11 acres of land. Located 10 miles north of its previous headquarters building, ASHRAE joins other innovation and sustainability-focused organisations based in the popular Technology Parkway corridor.

“ASHRAE’s new global headquarters is a prime example of how we are helping to pioneer a movement that many expect will ultimately make net-zero-energy the ‘new norm’ in sustainable design and construction,” said ASHRAE Building Ad Hoc Committee Chair Ginger Scoggins. “Although new construction of net-zero-energy buildings make a lot of headlines, reuse of existing structures is a basic tenet of sustainability – the energy performance of existing buildings must be addressed to substantially impact the 40% of primary energy consumed by buildings.”

Added Technical Advisory Subcommittee Chair Tim McGinn, “ASHRAE’s goal for this project was to renovate a three-story, 1970s-era, cheap-energy-period building into a high-performing net-zero-ready facility in a cost-effective way that can be replicated in the built environment industry.”

The photovoltaic (PV) system design is currently in progress, ASHRAE said. The building will be on its way to fully net-zero-energy by March 2021 upon the completion of the PV system installation, it added.

Focusing on the Society’s 2020-21 theme, ‘The ASHRAE Digital Lighthouse and Industry 4.0’, the headquarters building incorporates several digitally connected solutions, such as remote monitoring and analysis of building performance, with online dashboarding for transparency and advanced Building Automation System (BAS) integration with other systems, such as ASHRAE’s meeting reservations systems, ASHRAE said. Other solutions include a digital twin and Building Information Model (BIM), innovative mechanical systems visible through open ceiling around radiant panel clouds and advanced conferencing systems designed to serve as a “digital lighthouse” teaching resource, ASHRAE added.

“ASHRAE’s first-of-its-kind headquarters building was designed as a living showcase of what’s possible through technology integration to increase efficiency, protect people and property, and enhance the occupant experience,” said 2020-21 ASHRAE President Charles E. Gulledge III. “In addition to supporting ASHRAE’s technical standards, innovative product integrations from our generous donors also provide a scalable and repeatable model for a net-zero energy building design.”

According to ASHRAE, examples of technical features in the building include:


  • Radiant ceiling panel system: This is used for heating and cooling and dedicated outdoor air system for outdoor air ventilation with enthalpy heat recovery.
  • Overhead fresh air distribution system augmented with reversible ceiling fans in the open office areas and displacement distribution in the learning centre.
  • Six water source-heat pumps (WSHPs): There are four on basement level and two on upper level atrium that will be used to condition these spaces.
  • Demand Control Ventilation (DCV): This will be used for high occupancy spaces in the meeting and learning center. Air distribution is constant volume in office areas and provided by fabric duct, reducing diffuser count and duct branches.
  • Modelling Energy Use Intensity of 17 kBtu/sf/yr.
  • On-site electric vehicle charging stations available for guests and staff.
  • Roof-top and ground mounted photovoltaic solar energy system planned for installation, March 2021.
  • 18 new skylights and reconfigured window/wall ratio.
  • Useful daylight illuminance (>300 lux) at the work plane Window Wall Ratio (WWR) 79.9% Existing – New WWR east/west 33.5%  –  north/south – 41.9%.


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, ASHRAE had already planned to provide 30% more outside air to the building than the required minimum ventilation rates from ASHRAE Standard 62.1 – Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality and will implement other applicable guidance that has been developed by the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force (ETF) for commercial office buildings, ASHRAE said.

The building, ASHRAE said, is located in a forest setting, close to hotels, restaurants and walking trails. A large deck overlooking a lake adjacent to meeting rooms can be fully enjoyed on sunny days. ASHRAE’s headquarters is 12 minutes and 6.2 miles from the Doraville MARTA station for easy access to Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. The Society’s approximately 110-person staff officially moved into the building at the beginning of October.

“This move represents another significant milestone for ASHRAE,” said ASHRAE Executive Vice President Jeff Littleton. “In addition to showing our commitment to building occupant health and comfort, our new headquarters building will enable us to provide industry-leading support and service to our global volunteers, while driving innovation that will push our goal of sustainability in action forward.”

A team of ASHRAE volunteers led a highly successful building campaign to garner support for the renovation project, ASHRAE said. Thirty-one corporate donors committed more than USD 9.7 million in monetary support and gifts of equipment and services, ASHRAE said, thanking the following industry partners for their high-level support of the new global headquarters renovation project: NIBE, Cisco, Arkema, Daikin, Price Industries, Belimo, ClimateMaster, ClimaCool, Bell & Gossett, Big Ass Fans, Victaulic, Uponor, Mitsubishi Electric Trane, NTT and PlaceOS.

Additionally, ASHRAE members have given over USD 500,000 to date, ASHRAE said. In total, ASHRAE has received over USD 10.2 million from generous stakeholders, making a strong statement about their commitment to ASHRAE’s mission and to a shared vision of a healthy and sustainable built-environment for all, it added.

“ASHRAE’s new global headquarters is an example of an effective built-environment that fully considers the importance of effective operations by installing the systems and equipment in a manner that facilitates operation and maintenance,” said 2019-20 ASHRAE Presidential Member and Building Ad Hoc Committee Member Darryl K Boyce. “We are grateful to our donors for their generous support and partnership. It is this support that not only shows our donors’ alignment with ASHRAE’s sustainability goals, but helps us to address the challenges of designing and operate buildings in a technology driven environment.”


#ASHRAE #netzeroenergy #sustainability #sustainabledevelopment #energyperformance #PV #photovoltaic #BAS #automation #buildingautomation #digital #BIM #heating #cooling #DOAS #dedicatedoutdoorairsystem #enthalpyheatrecovery #ventilation #airconditioning #heatpump #heatpumps #WSHP #WSHPs #DCV #demandcontrolventilation #fabricduct #ducting #ductingsystems #Atlanta

ASHRAE announces 2020-21 Society Scholarship recipients

ATLANTA, Georgia, 5 October 2020: ASHRAE has announced the recipients of 30 Society scholarships, totaling USD 167,000, for the 2020-21 academic year.

“We are extremely proud of the 2020-21 ASHRAE Scholarship recipients,” said Michel Hayek, Chair, ASHRAE Scholarship Trustees. “These individuals represent the future of the HVAC&R industry, and ASHRAE is pleased to support this bright future by providing scholarship opportunities to students each year.”

According to ASHRAE, the following awards provide a USD 10,000 scholarship:

Willis H. Carrier Scholarships

Kylene Landenberger, mechanical engineering, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and Molly Sizemore, architectural engineering, Pennsylvania State University, are the recipients of a Willis H. Carrier Scholarship, established by the Carrier Corp. in memory of its founder, who installed the world’s first scientifically designed air conditioning system.

Reuben Trane Scholarships

William Welch, mechanical engineering, University of California – Los Angeles; Owen Lutz, architectural engineering, Kansas State University and Alexis Sheeto, architectural engineering, Pennsylvania State University are the recipients of a Reuben Trane Scholarship, which is to be awarded over two years and was established by the Trane Company, in memory its founder, an innovative engineer, inventor and business executive, who held 28 patents.

Gordon V.R. Holness Engineering Scholarship

Haley Webbert, mechanical engineering, University of Nevada – Reno, is the recipient of the Gordon V.R. Holness Engineering Scholarship named in honor of ASHRAE Presidential Member Holness, P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, Life Member, who served as the Society’s president in 2009-10.

Gordon V.R. Holness Engineering Technology Scholarship

Andrew Scott, architectural engineering technology, Vermont Technical College, is the recipient of the Gordon V.R. Holness Engineering Technology Scholarship.According to ASHRAE, the following awards provide one-year USD 5,000 scholarships:

Frank M. Coda Scholarship

Jon Cowart, electrical engineering, Pennsylvania State University, is the recipient of the Frank M. Coda Scholarship, created in memory of ASHRAE’s former executive vice president, who served from 1981-2004.Lynn G. Bellenger Engineering Scholarship

Christina Adams, industrial engineering, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, is the recipient of the Lynn G. Bellenger Engineering Scholarship, which recognizes female undergraduate engineering students and is named in memory of the Society’s first female president, who served as the Society’s president in 2010-11.

Alwin B. Newton Scholarship

Xianchen Hao, architectural engineering, University of Kansas, is the recipient of the Alwin B. Newton Scholarship, named for an industry pioneer and ASHRAE Fellow who was granted 219 patents.

David C.J. Peters Scholarship

Isabella Gayoso, mechanical engineering, Pennsylvania State University, is the recipient of the David C. J. Peters Scholarship, created by Southland Industries to honor Peters, an advocate of recruiting quality.

Duane Hanson Scholarship

Christian Fauer, mechanical engineering, Auburn University, is the recipient of the Duane Hanson Scholarship, established by Gayner Engineers and is named for the company’s former president.

Legacy Scholarship

Sean Lacey, mechanical engineering, University of Akron, is the recipient of the Legacy Scholarship.

ASHRAE Region IV Benny Bootle Scholarship

Ian Durr, mechanical engineering, Kennesaw State University, is the recipient of the ASHRAE Region IV Benny Bootle Scholarship, named for a former Region IV chair and regional director on the ASHRAE Board of Directors.

James R. Bullock Jr. Scholarship

Kayla McIntosh, architectural engineering, North Carolina A&T State University, is the recipient of the James R. Bullock, Jr. Scholarship, named in memory of the late Bullock Jr., P.E., Life Member of ASHRAE, who served as president of Environmental Air Systems Inc.

Donald Brady Scholarship

LeeRoy Nchinda, architectural engineering, North Carolina A&T State University, is the recipient of the Donald Brady Scholarship. The scholarship was created by Donald Brady, Life Member of ASHRAE and a presidential member of ASHRAE’s North Piedmont Chapter.

Prem Jain Scholarship

Aashni Ujra, architectural engineering, Heriot Watt University, is the recipient of the Prem Jain Scholarship. The scholarship was created by Dr. Prem Jain, Life Member of ASHRAE, founder of ASHRAE’s India Chapter-at-Large & presidential member of the ASHRAE India Chapter, founder and presidential member of ISHRAE (Indian Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers).

General Scholarship

Hunter Swope, architectural engineering, University of Cincinnati, is the recipient of the General Scholarship.

Engineering Technology Scholarships

Thomas Guilfoil, mechanical engineering technology, State University of New York – Canton and William Fretwell, architectural engineering technology, Vermont Technical, are the recipients of an Engineering Technology Scholarship.

Freshman Engineering Scholarship

Joseph Kawiecki, mechanical engineering, Purdue University, is the recipient of the Freshman Engineering Scholarship.


According to ASHRAE, the following awards provide one-year USD 3,000 scholarships:


Henry Adams Scholarship

Stephen Batsa, mechanical engineering, Dalhousie University, is the recipient of the Henry Adams Scholarship, named in memory of charter member and sixth president of ASHRAE’s predecessor society, ASHVE.


ASHRAE Region I Setty Family Foundation Scholarship

William Hanna, mechanical engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology, is the recipient of the ASHRAE Region I Setty Family Foundation Scholarship named in honor of Boggarm Setty, Fellow ASHRAE, Life Member.


ASHRAE Region III Setty Family Foundation Scholarship

Alexandra Brown, architectural engineering, Pennsylvania State University, is the recipient of the ASHRAE Region III Setty Family Foundation Scholarship.


ASHRAE Region VIII Scholarship

Simon Devlin, mechanical and aerospace engineering, Oklahoma State University, is the recipient of the ASHRAE Region VIII Scholarship.


ASHRAE Central New York Chapter King-Traugott Scholarship

Stanley Roberts, mechanical engineering technology, Sinclair Community College, is the recipient of the ASHRAE Central New York Chapter King-Traugott Scholarship named in memory of ASHRAE Life Members Fritz Traugott, Ph.D., Fellow ASHRAE, and Harry King.


High School Senior Scholarships

Seth Hoffman, mechanical engineering, Iowa State University; Braeden Duwa, mechanical engineering, University of Alabama; Noah Czelusta, mechanical engineering, Columbia University and Seth Reissig, mechanical engineering, Baylor University, are the recipients of a High School Senior Scholarship.


According to ASHRAE, applications are now being accepted for the 2021-22 undergraduate engineering, technology, regional/chapter, and university-specific scholarships. The application deadline is December 1, 2020.


For more information on its scholarships, including eligibility requirements and application materials, ASHRAE urged those interested to visit


Automation key to life in post-COVID world, says Danalto

Albert Baker

DUBAI, UAE, 23 July 2020: Automation is key to life in a post-COVID world, said Albert Baker, Co-Founder, Danalto, who pointed out that the need to monitor tasks without manual intervention has placed increasing importance on the value that data analytics and IoT holds for public and private organisations, when it comes to ensuring reliability of operations.

“Contractors in the UK and Ireland, where we are predominantly active, have really adapted to regulations and have taken the measures required to continue working with precaution,” he said. As a result, Baker pointed out that social distancing protocols have affected standard procedures, including installation of equipment and the management and audits of sites. “Obviously, the majority of projects have been delayed, especially those projects that require physical installation of IoT sensors and networks,” he said. “However, software development, system integration and platform testing have continued with contractors and partners.”

In view of this, businesses that embrace technology quickly will rebound faster and will safeguard their organisations against future disruptions, Baker said. “Digital transformation was once considered a potential project within a business that may or may not bring benefits, and which would be done in a piece-by-piece manner over a long period of time,” he said, pointing out that today, digital transformation is critical to ensuring systems are in place that enable employees to work effectively, processes are robust to ensure continuity is achievable and business is optimised to be able to withstand downtime during a pandemic like COVID-19. While the “new normal” has not yet been fully defined, Baker said that undoubtedly there has been a significant reset in the ways businesses operate regardless of industry.

AHRI opens Dubai office

Stephen Yurek

ARLINGTON, Virginia, United States 22 July 2020: The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) has opened an office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to further the interests of its members and certification programme participants by enhancing relationships with manufacturers and with governmental and non-governmental organisations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the organisation said through a Press release. “Our Dubai office further expands AHRI’s global reach and provides us with a unique opportunity to develop and nurture relationships with manufacturers, regulators, and other stakeholders in the region,” said Stephen Yurek, AHRI President and CEO.

François Boueri

Headed by François Boueri, a strategic management expert with extensive experience in HVACR and energy efficiency, the office will be staffed with professionals familiar with important local and regional issues, and who speak the language of this very important region to our industry, AHRI said through the release. “I look forward  to engaging our stakeholders, as we work to ensure the applicability of AHRI technical solutions, standards, and certification to regional needs and regulations,” Boueri said. “Given the respect for AHRI’s offerings by engineers, specifiers, building owners, and many others across the globe, this is an opportune time for our industry to come together to deploy time-tested solutions to the region’s challenges.” A founding partner of Sustainable Environmental Engineering Solutions and a former President and Director of Daikin McQuay Middle East, Boueri will serve as Vice President of AHRI’s Dubai office, the organisation said.

Khalil Issa

Khalil Issa, a well-known energy and construction professional in the Gulf region, who also is a founding partner and former managing director of ECOFAST Construction, previous Managing Director of ADC Energy Systems and CEO of Energy Central Company, will be the office’s General Manager, the organisation said. “Initiatives underway by most countries in the region signal a clear commitment to improving the environment and increasing energy efficiency,” Issa said. “The AHRI MENA team looks forward to shaping the best paths forward for implementing minimum energy performance standards that are critical in the current regulatory environment.”

The establishment of the AHRI Dubai office, the organisation said, follows the successful introduction of operations in China, which began in 2012, and in Canada, which were put in place in 2018, and is in keeping with its focus on establishing AHRI as the source of globally relevant standards, certification programmes, and technical information in key markets. The new office will help the industry address increasing regulatory requirements and demand for AHRI standards and certification programmes in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and other Levant and North African countries, the organisation said. It will also allow AHRI to better monitor activities and identify opportunities to serve adjacent markets in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, it added.

The Dubai office opening, the organisation said, is a notable accomplishment for AHRI, as it works to ensure global adaptation and use of its standards and certification programmes – sought by industry and governments – to prevent costly duplicative testing and certification requirements for its 330-plus member companies.

BITZER wins the HVACR trust award

SINDELFINGEN, Germany, 23 April 2020: Bitzer won the 2020 HVACR Trust Award in the condensing units category, the company announced through a Press release, adding that it won in the same category in the 2017 edition.

Andreas Riesch, Director of Sales (Germany and Switzerland), Bitzer, said: “At this award, industry representatives such as contractors, expert planners and operators of refrigeration systems are the ones to evaluate and vote – and this is what makes the award all the more valuable for us. For the second time now, it shows us how much our customers appreciate and trust us. Since the first vote of the Trust Award, three years ago, we have added the ECOLITE series to our portfolio of condensing units. We are all the more pleased that it, too, seems to satisfy our customers to a high degree.”

According to the release, the organisers of the Award gave away trophies in 14 different categories pertaining to refrigeration and air conditioning technology, ventilation as well as air ducting, building automation and fire protection. The participants voted on all aspects of consulting, technology and recommendability of the products and their manufacturers, the release said.


According to the release, Bitzer’s ECOSTAR condensing units offer efficient performance through intelligent technology. The specific unit controller, the system-optimised mini-channel condenser and the infinitely variable operation of the speed-controlled ECOLINE VARISPEED reciprocating compressor and the EC fans allow for future-oriented planning, the release said. The medium-capacity segment and most standard applications are covered by the ECOLITE condensing units, Bitzer said through the release, adding that all seven ECOLITE models offer a wide range of applications from 1.5 kW to 5 kW in the low-temperature range and from 3.5 kW to 16 kW in the medium-temperature range. Compressors with the quasi-stepless VARISTEP capacity control, Bitzer said, are in use here. In addition, the compressors will be approved for operation with R1234ze or R1234yf in the course of this year, Bitzer said. The LHE condensing unit series, the company said, also works efficiently and is available with the ECOLINE compressors or with the two-stage compressors of the second generation.

EMA to conduct Pandemic Building Webinar

WASHINGTON DC, 26 April 2020: The Energy Management Association (EMA), affiliate Associated Air Balance Council (AABC), and other partners will conduct a webinar disbursing practical advice and actionable content aimed at assisting building owners and facility managers through the pandemic shutdown, EMA said through a Press release.


Titled, ‘Managing Facilities Through the Pandemic: Energy Saving Tips for Facility Operations’, the webinar is scheduled for 1pm (Eastern Standard Time), on May 5, EMA said.


According to the release, the webinar will cover practical ideas for saving energy in unoccupied or near-empty buildings. The energy-saving ideas and strategies are focused on facility operations during the pandemic – but many of the suggestions that will be covered in the webinar will be valuable during the transition of building operations back to normal operations with occupied facilities, the release said. Joining the webinar will be representatives of EMA affiliate, AABC, AABC Commissioning Group (ACG) member ETC (and clientele), with support from EMA Associate Member BuildingFit.


According to the release, panelists include:

  • Mike Kelly, TBE, CxA, President, American Testing, Executive Vice President AABC
  • Bryan Conrad, EBCP, Energy Education Coordinator, Prince William County Public Schools
  • Glen Anderson, PE, Sr Engineering Vice President, ETC Group
  • Jim Crockett, PE, Senior Project Engineer, ETC Group
  • Christopher Cox, PE, Engineering Manager, Utility Services, Nexant

According to the release, the event has been approved for 1 AIA Learning Unit, which is accepted by most related credentialing bodies for continuing education requirements.


The learning objectives for the webinar include:

  • Learn to find, recognise and resolve non-obvious (and obvious) energy waste during a shutdown
  • Understand how adjustments and changes made during this time may not solve root problems, which may impact persistence
  • Learn basic HVAC savings measures all facility personnel should be implementing in their facilities permanently
  • Understand how best to utilise your staff during a shutdown to capture long-term energy gains


ENGIE Refrigeration reorganises its heat pumps division

LINDAU, Germany, 5 March 2020: ENGIE Refrigeration is reorganising its heat pump division, the company said through a Press release. Starting March 2020, the refrigeration and heating specialist will produce all the CO2 high-temperature heat pumps in its portfolio at its head office in Lindau on Lake Constance, it said. In the course of this process, the existing production site in Ottendorf-Okrilla, near Dresden, will be shut down, it added.

“We have been producing chillers in Lindau for customers around the world for many years,” Jochen Hornung, CEO, ENGIE Refrigeration, said. “Our employees have extensive experience in the production of machines with a high performance range, and will now apply this expertise to the production of our CO2 high-temperature heat pumps.”

According to the release, ENGIE Refrigeration will now use its state-of-the-art plant and the logistics network established in Lindau to sell its heat pumps, as well, thereby raising synergies and further increasing efficiency in its production and distribution processes. With this decision, ENGIE Refrigeration said it has clearly achieved its strategic objective of adapting the high production standards of its entire product portfolio to its CO2 high-temperature heat pumps and, thereby, offering customers the best possible refrigeration and heating solutions.

According to the release, the CO2 high-temperature heat pumps are an important component of the product and service portfolio at ENGIE Refrigeration. They can reach effective temperatures of up to 110 degrees Centigrade and are, therefore, used, for example, in the fields of heating, drying technology, and in the provision of heat in communal and industrial heating networks, ENGIE said. The heat pumps use the natural refrigerant CO2, which is assigned to safety group A1 for its low toxicity and low level of flammability, which means that flames do not spread, and is inexpensive to procure, ENGIE said. In addition, the refrigerant has a GWP (global warming potential) value of just 1 and, thus, has far lower effects on the earth’s atmosphere than traditional refrigerants, ENGIE added. When used in heat pumps, it contributes to the mission of ‘Zero Carbon Transition as a Service’, which the French ENGIE Group, the parent company of ENGIE Refrigeration, has set itself, ENGIE further added. To this effect, ENGIE Refrigeration plans to further expand its heat pump division at its site in Lindau on Lake Constance over the coming years. Hornung said, “We will overhaul the existing thermeco2 heat pumps over the course of 2020 and align them even further with current and future market requirements.

Mostra Convegno postponed to September

MILAN, Italy, 26 February 2020: Mostra Convegno Expocomfort (MCE) and Biomass Innovation Expo (BIE), scheduled to take place from March 17 to 20 in Milan, have been postponed to September 8 to 11, following the recent outbreak of the novel strain of coronavirus (Covid-19) in Italy, Reed Exhibitions Italia, the organisers of the shows, announced through a Press release.

MCE is reportedly one of the leading shows in the world focusing on the latest energy- efficient solutions in HVAC&R, plumbing and renewable energy.

Reed said they took the decision to postpone the shows after constantly monitoring the Covid-19 outbreak and scrupulously following all the directives issued by the relevant Italian Health Authorities.

“The health of our customers, partners and employees is our number one priority,” said Massimiliano Pierini, Managing Director of Reed Exhibitions Italia. “With the recent development of the outbreak in Italy, especially in Lombardy, and taking into account the decree announced by the Lombardia Region to suspend ‘[…] events and any form of meeting in public or private place’, we have had many discussions with a number of customers and partners over the last few days and we have decided to reschedule our events to September.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly – our customers, partners and team in Italy have worked incredibly hard on these events and, while it is disappointing to postpone, it’s imperative that we prioritise the health and safety of everyone involved. Our goal remains to provide the best customer value for everyone attending MCE and BIE in September and to serve the industry more globally in the best conditions of security and serenity. With this in mind, over the coming weeks, we will be creating ways of keeping our community connected to support and collaborate and to keep our world moving during this difficult period”.

Reed said the MCE and BIE team is at the disposal of the customers, stakeholders, buyers, visitors and any professionals for any questions they may have in managing the transition to the next issues of MCE and BIE, later in 2020.

Machine Learning can impact climate change through effective engineering and innovative research, says Miquido

Jerzy Biernacki

DUBAI, UAE, 23 January 2020: The application of Artificial Intelligence would bring the most significant difference, in contributing to broader sustainability and efficiency targets, said Jerzy Biernacki, Head of Research and Development at Miquido a software solutions provider based in Krakow, Poland. “Only a few months back, the joint effort of the biggest names in AI resulted in a paper titled Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning,” he said. “This paper points out the most significant areas in which Machine Learning, a branch of AI, can have a high impact in stopping climate change through effective engineering and innovative research.”

Biernacki emphasised that these includes segments such as electricity systems, buildings and cities, and industries among other sectors. “Let’s consider how energy is currently distributed, where the generated power must be equal to power consumption at any given time,” he said. “Being able to predict how much energy needs to be generated is crucial in energy saving. It gets even more complicated when we want to include renewable energy sources like solar panels or wind turbines because the amount of energy generated by them strongly depends on weather conditions. To be able to save energy we need algorithms that can predict both sides of this equation.” For traditional programming, Biernacki said, this might be too difficult. However. Machine Learning algorithms get increasingly better with predictions, given enough historical data, he emphasised. “Further investments and research in this area will result in reducing energy losses and allowing for a broader reliance on clean energy sources,” he said. “ML can also help maximise the power generation and cost-effectiveness of nuclear power plants.”

Biernacki said that while many customers and end users from the construction sector, be it utilities or manufacturers, are aware of the importance and value of digitalizing operations the level of awareness varies greatly. “Some come with a little more than an idea, and some come with detailed specifications and a development plan,” he said, sharing the company’s experience as a software producer. “What we offer is a full support for both startups and global brands at each stage of their product’s development. If a client does have clearly defined goals we help validate them, and if one doesn’t, we help them shape their vision into products that fit the market.” This, he said, is achieved through product discovery workshops, product design workshops, design sprints and other similar exercises. “These workshops help our clients understand their goals, conditions on the market and design high-quality software products,” he said. “Every client is different and every project is unique so we tailor our tools for each case.There is also a Research and Development team that offers its services in Proof of Concept implementation and feasibility studies. The first one includes rapid idea prototyping that allows us to validate business concepts. The second is about verification of the ideas from a technical point of view.  Both let our clients reduce unnecessary costs and minimise the risk of business and technological failure.”

Jarosław Bodnar

Weighing in Jarosław Bodnar, Head of Operations, Miquido said that admittedly, deciding which technology to choose at the start of the project isn’t an easy one. “It is a compromise between the budget, the timeline and the awareness of the client,” he said. “By this, I mean the idea that investing in the project doesn’t end after meeting the deadline and delivering MVP. Since without constant delivery the client is behind the competition. Awareness means choices. And having a Time and Material model with companies have this flexibility. Since you are focusing on what’s important at this moment and you are not wasting time on discussions about what you agreed on before.” Bodnar also emphasised that successful clients are those that ready to choose. “Our most successful clients are those who are keeping the teams for years,” he said. “And these teams have already rewritten the solution a couple of times to meet business needs” Bodnar stressed that such an approach leads to stronger competitive advantage. “Technology is getting older, and there is no escape from it,” he said. “The choice is yours.”


Hannah Jo Uy is Assistant Editor at Climate Control Middle East magazine. She may be contacted at

Mostra gets ready to ‘floor’ visitors

MILAN, Italy, 18 December 2019: MOSTRA CONVEGNO EXPOCMFORT 2020 (MCE) has revised the entire exhibition hall layout to build a path that allows visitors to learn about the new possibilities offered by technological progress, discover them, deepen them, and deal with entrepreneurs, consultants and developers acquiring useful information and contacts to govern the development process and increase their competitiveness, the organisers of the show revealed through a Press release.

The show will feature an exhibition floorplan that is able to bring the HVAC&R technologies closer together to make the best of the concept of indoor climate, which will feature the whole components sector in Hall 2/4; sanitary technology, water treatment, equipment and tools in Hall 14/18; the world of heating and plant design services in Halls 1/3, 5/7, and furthermore, BIE- BIOMASS INNOVATION EXPO, co-located with MCE, in Hall 10. The EXPO, the organisers said, will shine a spotlight on the renewable energy sector, with a particular focus on BIM.

Lastly, the organisers said, HVAC&R systems will take up not only Halls 13/15 and 22/24 but also 9/11, where the best in tech innovation will be on display, and which would merge perfectly with ‘That’s Smart’, an exhibition and workshop space, joining the link between the heat and power environment.

According to the release, the world of HVACR is changing faster than ever. Integration and technology development, the release said, are the two drivers that cannot be underestimated; efficiency, integrated buildings, smart homes and domotics are the main areas of interest that are now decisively influencing the sector.

The connection of multiple home devices over the internet, thanks to The Internet of Things, is inexorably becoming a reality that affects the entire supply chain, from manufacturers to end-users, a development that in Italy in 2018 generated a turnover of five billion euros, registering a 35% increase compared to the previous year, and a growth that, for now, is set to remain at that level, the organisers of the show said, adding that moreover, the greatest added value for all trade professionals lies in the wide range of services they increasingly offer.


Miquido calls for care in selecting digital partners

Jerzy Biernacki

DUBAI, UAE, 8 December 2019: There are no silver bullets in software development, and no single solution that works everywhere, said Jerzy Biernacki, Head of Research and Development, Miquido, while discussing what end users, including building owners, utilities and operators, should take into consideration when looking for a solution provider that will help in digitalising business processes and models to enhance efficiencies. “Something that worked in one case might be overkill in another, or it might not work at all,” he said. “The key is to really understand the customer’s business goals and choose the most appropriate solutions to meet them.” Above everything else, all clients across the value chain need to seek reliable partners, he added.

Biernacki emphasised that clients should look for an open-minded team that tries to understand their needs and enhance the project with their expertise at all stages from conceptualisation, through business workshops, prototyping and design sprints, to design, development and all the way up to the release. “They do not stop there,” he said. “The team should also help to iterate on your product and make it even better with each update. Therefore, clients should ask about the company’s approach to software development and to the offered services to verify whether the company can deliver a full package.”

Biernacki said that even the biggest projects need to be broken down into manageable phases. “Even when a client has a plan in mind, it is very important to establish and take into account all technical dependencies, and the software provider’s support in this aspect is crucial,” he said, adding that given the scope, the company should be able to help clients break down the project, taking into account the issues of scalability and expandability, all of which should be taken into consideration when choosing a provider. “It is also worth asking about the company’s development process to verify if the team is really agile,” he said. “Clients can do this by providing some hypothetical situations regarding changes in the requirements and asking what the impact on the project would be – both cost- and time-wise.” Last but not the least, Biernacki said, clients can recognise the best partners by their proactiveness. “They show it right from the start, asking the right questions on the first contact and exploring possible solutions right from the first call or meeting,” he said.

Jarosław Bodnar

Weighing in, Jarosław Bodnar, Head of Operations, Miquido, pointed out that the experience of having big brands in the portfolio is not a guarantee of good quality. “If the company hasn’t focused on the introduction on projects instead of on brands, that’s the first red light,” he said. “The second is when the portfolio presented at the first meeting doesn’t correspond to the client’s domain. It means someone didn’t even do their homework. So, how can they provide the solution you need and be a reliable partner?” Bodnar said that when assessing a solution provider, clients should ask the following: ‘Have you done similar projects before?’ and ‘Could you tell us about the risks?’ “Hopefully, the company will name all the risks you had in mind,” he said, “plus a couple you didn’t think about but make perfect sense for you.”

Brazil highlights the use of biofuel

Rafael Solimeo

DUBAI, UAE, 4 December 2019: Brazil’s diverse energy mix opens up possibilities of a collaboration between the country and the Middle East region, said Rafael Solimeo, Head of International Office (Middle East and North Africa), Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (ABCC). He added that as Brazil and Middle East have similarities, when it comes to a reliance on temperature-controlled systems, all of which create a burden on the energy grid, both regions can learn a lot from each other. He said Brazil is focusing on bringing the country’s renewable energy and sustainable solutions to the Middle East market.

Andre Pitaguari Germanos

Brazil has made significant strides in the field of biofuels. Andre Pitaguari Germanos, National Secretary of Ecotourism, Ministry of the Environment, Federative Republic of Brazil, said the government has been investing heavily in alternative energy and that the country has taken a leadership role in the use of renewable fuel from sugarcane. “Brazil has one of the most efficient and cleanest energy matrix in the world, as our regular energy comes mostly from hydroelectric power,” he said. Solar energy and wind farms are also gaining strong positive momentum in Brazil, further diversifying the country’s clean energy contribution, in line with the country’s commitment under the Paris Accord, Germanos said.

Julia Tauszig

Julia Tauszig, Institutional Relation Coordinator, UNICA, Sugarcane Industry Association, said sugarcane is poised to play a big role in the future energy mix and in the future of mobility. “In Brazil, we have a high blend of ethanol in petrol,” she said. “Any place you go to fuel your car, the petrol has 27% of ethanol. This is mandatory. There are also flex fuel vehicles, where you can use either ethanol or petrol at any percentage.” Ethanol, she said, has the potential of 90% emission reduction, adding that as the biggest cities in the world are facing this challenge, ethanol offers a good opportunity to meet emission-reduction goals, in addition to increasing air quality and overall health of the population. Tauszig said that oil-rich nations in the Middle East should especially look at this to realise the dream of “green petrol”, which would help nations move away from reliance on oil and petrochemicals in a less harsh and abrupt manner. She said that looking at opportunities offered by ethanol is vital, as even the introduction of electric cars represents a burden on the energy grid, not to mention the required investment to create the infrastructure to charge the cars, in addition to sustainable disposal of batteries. More than 60 countries today have a mandate or authorisation for blending, she said.

While the sugarcane industry has made great strides in impacting the petroleum sector, Tauszig said, there are applications in the built-environment. She added that the sugarcane industry is taking a leadership role in promoting circular economy, as in addition to ethanol, residual matter from sugarcane is used to create biogas, which can be used to make bio-electricity. “Most of the sugarcane industry – the largest establishments – are in Sao Paolo,” she said. “They produce for themselves, and the surplus they sell to the local grid.”

She added that a strong regulatory framework offering funds has helped investment in this direction, with the National Biofuel Policy recognising the positive externalities of ethanol and biofuel production. In Brazil’s energy matrix, she said, 45% is from renewables, and of that 70% of the renewable energy source is from the sugarcane industry, either through ethanol or biomass.

ASHRAE to develop IoT standard

Darryl K Boyce

DUBAI, UAE, 11 November 2019: “Understanding how the industry is going to change in the future is another area we want to begin investigating,” said 2019-20 ASHRAE President Darryl K Boyce, highlighting how technology is constantly redefining the way buildings are designed, built, operated and maintained. “Using technology wisely in the future is a challenge, and I think it’s time that we stepped up and really took it on,” he said, adding that there is a growing need for standardization in this field, which ASHRAE aims to address. “I have been talking to a number of organizations about the fact that we should really have a standard for the use of the Internet of Things data in the built-environment,” he said. “The standard would need to cover how to use the data that’s coming from all sorts of devices effectively but also securely, so that cybersecurity issue is covered, as well.”

Boyce said ASHRAE has been in talks with BACnet organizations as well as with a number of building automation companies, to see potential areas of collaboration in order to create and develop the standard, which is expected to be rolled out in the next one to two years. “They feel this is necessary,” he said, “Even with existing systems, cybersecurity is a big issue. We are talking about working with the CIBSE group in England to create a guide on cybersecurity for building automation systems.” Boyce said CIBSE group has already developed a Version One of the standard. “They want to work with ASHRAE now to have a more comprehensive guide to cybersecurity in the built-environment,” he said. “These are the things we are working on.” Boyce said that while the standard is still a work in progress, it aims to cover all buildings and systems that contribute to the built-environment, including mission-critical facilities, such as healthcare, data centers and District Energy plants, taking into consideration how they are controlled and operated.

Boyce said that such a supporting infrastructure is needed, as technology will continuously play a vital role in enhancing operational performance of buildings. “One of our largest challenges in the built-environment today is actually getting these buildings to operate effectively – and that’s not just energy-efficiency-wise, it’s also about the indoor environmental quality,” he said. “We want to find ways that these buildings can be operated effectively, so that the people in the buildings are productive, yet they do not waste energy. I believe that technology could play a great role in that.” Boyce added that analytic software and artificial intelligence could greatly help operators and building occupants operate the building more effectively and achieve an ideal environment by being able to assess the activities and number of inhabitants. He said, “It can work with people responsible for operating and maintaining the building to keep it in a condition that it will provide good indoor environment without wasting energy.”

Running a high fever

Gerhard Schmitt

Many cities across the globe are afflicted by the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect, caused by a combination of rapid and unprecedented urbanisation, and inefficient cooling approaches, among other likely factors. In addition to the health risks that increased temperatures pose to citizens, UHI could potentially subvert ongoing efforts to mitigate climate change. “Never forget,” says Dr Gerhard Schmitt, Professor of Information Architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) and Director of the Singapore-ETH Centre, “the city is at the same time the reason and the victim of a combination of global warming and local heat island effect. Cities account for 60-70% of global anthropogenic warming effects. The problem is in the city, and the answer is in the city. We have to rethink how we plan, run and manage the city.”

Concrete infrastructure, lack of vegetation and human activity are some of the causes for UHI effect; however, with temperature spikes urging reliance on mechanical means of cooling, inefficient equipment and outdated designs only serve to aggravate existing symptoms. As such, Schmitt says, manufacturers must be encouraged to develop and distribute products according to only the highest standards. “Air conditioning is among the largest consumers of electricity,” he says. “The release of waste heat is often amplified if electricity to run the air conditioners is generated with fossil fuels and if AC systems are not running efficiently.” Schmitt adds that improper HVAC design of many high-rise buildings also contributes to UHI. In his view, the stacking effect of air conditioners in buildings makes the system drastically less efficient. “As air conditioner condensers release heat and as the hot air rises, the higher floors get hotter. This means that the air conditioning units on the higher floors have to work harder and the whole system generates more and more heat,” he says. Schmitt says that in high-density, mixed-use cities, such as those in Asia, the stacking effect must be taken into consideration even at the city planning stage, given that buildings are so close together.


Matthias Roth

There are a number of mitigation strategies available that could be used to address UHI. Dr Matthias Roth, Professor of Urban Climatology and Deputy Head, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, points out that an examination of traditional, vernacular architecture provides useful guidelines in this regard. “For example, traditional settlements in dry desert climates are characterized by densely built houses, made of thick walls and painted in light colours, to provide shade between the buildings, lower the thermal responsiveness, to reduce heat retention and to reflect as much incoming solar radiation as possible,” he says. “The same solutions do not apply in the wet tropical context, where traditionally light-weight building materials, provision for shade and enhancement of ventilation have been maximised. Across most climatic regions, vegetation is known as one of the most versatile intervention options, which provides insulation to rooftops, evaporative cooling, shade by individual trees or through park cooling effects.”

Schmitt adds that while traditional architecture offers a wealth of wisdom, design adoption must also take into account fundamental shifts in global climate. “Let’s take one of the typical passive buildings in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore,” he says. “They worked well in 1800s, 1900s, up to, maybe, 1950. They were perfectly useful, created a good indoor climate with high thermal comfort and enough breeze and wind. But the traditional way alone is not enough, because the outside temperature has risen 3, 4, 5 or even 6 degrees C. Simply replicating old buildings and materials in today’s context will not work. We have to take all the knowledge we can from the past and combine it with high-tech active cooling devices driven by renewable energy.”

Kurt Shickman

Kurt Shickman, Director, GCCA, believes that there has been a significant paradigm shift in how stakeholders view cooling and that passive cooling strategies are increasingly being considered in broader conversations when it comes to ensuring communities have greater access to cooling. Dr Ronnen Levinson, Staff Scientist and Leader of the Heat Island Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in the United States, adds that growing appreciation for passive cooling strategies is especially evident in cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore, and in his place of work, Berkeley Lab. Natural ventilation, cool paint, and other strategies can be implemented to make buildings that do not have air conditioning cooler, safer and more comfortable during heat waves. “We call this ‘cool building solutions for a warming world’,” he says. Unlike in the Middle East, he says, many buildings in Europe and parts of the United States lack air conditioning and, thus, are not prepared to withstand the unprecedented high temperatures of recent months. Levinson points out that the increasingly common occurrence of heat waves must urge stakeholders to reevaluate design of existing buildings that were developed without mechanical air conditioning in mind, and that implementation of passive cooling strategies is especially important when it comes to securing the health, comfort, and well-being of disadvantaged communities.


Ronnen Levinson

Another UHI mitigation strategy Roth puts the spotlight on is the use of reflective roofs and reflective pavements/parking lots, which, he says, are a quick and relatively easy first step towards reducing daytime surface temperature and absorption of energy into the respective materials, with the added benefit of lowering air temperature. Levinson shares that at Berkeley Lab, many research efforts are underway to further explore and maximise the potential of reflective surfaces, such as cool walls, roofs, and pavements.

Levinson says that Berkeley Lab and its partners, including the University of Southern California and the University of California, San Diego, have investigated how reflective surfaces affect building energy use and urban air temperature. They have also explored the availability of cool roof, wall, and pavement materials, and their abilities to stay reflective over time. Levinson adds that climate simulations evaluating cool roofs and cool walls in Los Angeles found that the urban heat island (UHI) mitigation benefit of reflective walls is comparable to that of reflective roofs, as the outside air temperature reduction provided by cool walls was predicted to be 85% of that from cool roofs. They also found through building simulations that cool walls are a useful measure for saving energy in buildings across California and the southern half of the United States. “The energy savings from cool walls were typically as great, if not greater than, those from cool roofs. Although walls get half as much sunlight, they also have only half the insulation,” he says.

Levinson says that Berkeley Lab, the University of Southern California, and Altostratus, Inc. have completed a study to identify not only urban heat islands but also urban cool islands across the city of Los Angeles by measuring variations in air temperatures, two metres off the ground. For the study, Levinson says, researchers traversed the city in vehicles equipped with a specialized rooftop thermometer and a GPS to map air temperature. “We wanted to identify cool islands and hot islands in the city and correlate them to the use of urban heat island countermeasures, such as cool roofs and vegetation, to verify what’s predicted by climate simulation models,” he says. “We found that as roofs became more reflective, outside air temperature dropped. We can use this information to help calibrate the models that simulate UHI mitigation.”


Roth says that out of the many mitigation options in the market, the use of reflective surfaces, such as cool roofs, is probably the most cost-effective one available. It offers the most immediate impact, but all mitigation options are essentially scale-dependent, he says. “While some are useful at the micro-scale, such as individual buildings, others are best applied at the local-scale or entire neighborhoods,” he says. “It is, therefore, important that individual sectors exchange ideas and discuss plans with each other.” To demonstrate the complexities associated with many of the mitigation options, Roth says that while increasing vegetation is considered beneficial, provision for water may restrict its application in waterscarce regions.

Schmitt adds that considering every country and every region have different climate zones and geographical conditions, solutions must be tailored to address unique challenges of cities and that there can never be a one-size-fits-all approach. “Every city we look at is different from others,” Schmitt says. “The same guidelines and roadmaps in one city, for example in a temperate climate, could cause opposite effects of what is intended in a tropical climate. Different countries and cities are almost like different planets, sometimes.”

Another challenge Schmitt cites when it comes to addressing UHI is the fact that the level of understanding policymakers have towards the issue varies greatly in different parts of the world and between developed and developing countries. Roth says that in most developed countries, climate-sensitive urban design and planning practices are becoming routine considerations in city governments. However, Roth adds that in certain countries, where fast provision of relatively cheap housing and essential urban infrastructure is more important, it would not be a surprise if adopting climate-sensitive design is not a high priority. Even when it comes to environmental targets, Roth says, the urban heat island is not always one of the major considerations. “The UHI should primarily be given high priority in the fast-growing cities located in the tropics and subtropics and/or where summer heat-waves are experienced,” he says. “But in most cities, air and water quality, waste management, etc., are equally important issues. More people, for example, die because of bad air quality than urban heat.”

Shickman adds that while efficient cooling is very important, there is a very large group of people for whom efficient cooling won’t have an effect because they lack access to cooling services. “Heat mitigation is often not a policy priority because the full extent of its effects on communities is not well understood or quantified in every place. Strategies to reduce heat and improve access to passive cooling are important on their own, but they also often help ease higher priority or more visible challenges in the places they are deployed. While it’s clear there are other challenges and problems, we can’t lose sight of this. Cooling often takes a backseat to other pressing problems, but focusing on cooling could have an unexpected positive effect on those other problems.”


In view of complex urban systems, administering the treatment required to address UHI requires participation of all stakeholders. Providing the perspective of academics, Levinson says the work of researchers and scientists in the field is mainly directed towards studying strategies to enhance city cooling solutions, but that they also play a role in developing better cool materials for the building envelope, as well as in policy. Researchers at Berkeley Lab, he adds, have contributed to building energy standards and to performing technical analysis to identify what energy savings are achieved and the additional cost required, to better understand what might be considered appropriate incentives. The Lab, he says, also contributed to cool roof provisions in the ASHRAE 90.1 building energy efficiency standard for commercial buildings and in the LEED green building program from the US Green Building Council. Levinson says that Berkeley Lab, along with other institutes, also develops educational materials that are, in turn, used by contractors and builders to understand and integrate cool roofs in construction. Further, it provides material to general audiences, such as home owners, to explain cool surfaces, to promote energy-efficient practices, if the buildings are air-conditioned, or enhance thermal comfort, in the event the buildings are not air conditioned. In view of the wealth of available material being offered by the research community, Levinson believes there should be greater effort to educate the public and policymakers on new technologies available.

Roth says that given that addressing UHI is an active and evolving area of research, it is essential that governments collaborate with the research community to be properly informed of the latest developments. Roth also highlights the important role governments play through regulation, recommending that city authorities devise planning guidelines, which offer benefits to developers, while at the same time incentivising adoption of climate-sensitive design. “An example is to mandate developers to retain open green space at ground level in exchange for relaxing building height restrictions,” he says. “Or, ask developers to incorporate the same amount of greenspace built-over into their building design, as skygardens or green walls. Or, how about mandating financial institutions to evaluate their loans with respect to the environmental impact of a building in terms of the outdoor impact but also regards energy efficiency, use of resources during construction and during operation.”

Shickman suggests that there should be a straightforward policy to require certain procurement specifications in order to receive government funding or development support. “If you are able to get that built in, you’re making tremendous change,” he says. “It is a big challenge, but it also a big opportunity.”

Schmitt says that he believes there is opportunity for manufacturers within the cooling sector to move towards a more service-oriented framework, pointing to a similar shift he has observed in the transportation sector. “It’s becoming more about sustainable mobility, and the automobile industry is more conscious of energy efficiency and reduction of pollution,” he says. “I see the same shift with the HVAC community offering cooling as a service. The industry is taking the efficiency of equipment into greater account and taking a longer-term view of this process of cooling. The service providers see it as their responsibility to change the air filters to ensure that air conditioners are clean and are operating efficiently, which consumers often don’t do, because they don’t know what’s behind these boxes. Providing cooling as a service could be a competitive differentiator. I’m sure there is an excellent business case once one company can charge less because of more efficient equipment, smarter connection of machines and better scheduling of the entire network. That will force others to do the same. I think this will lead to a reduction of cost and increased efficiency in the HVAC industry.”

Identifying the best approach to mitigate UHI can, undoubtedly, be a challenge. Schmitt says this is perceived to be complex and difficult to understand, only because stakeholders are looking at a building in isolation instead of understanding how the building interacts with the rest of city. Essentially, there is a need to move away from traditional concepts of cities to create a positive change. “Every building, every room, every person is part of a context,” he says. “The person is part of the room, the room is part of the building and the building is part of a city. If we change anything, it has impact on the city, on the neighborhood, and to the individual in the building.”

Schmitt proposes that stakeholders must take on the role of doctors and view the city as an organism, sharing insights from the Future Cities Laboratory’s approach of understanding the city through the lens of urban metabolism. “When a person has a fever, you have to identify the source of the fever,” he says. “Then, it will be simpler to make the diagnosis to help with the mitigation. But, it has to be done building by building, case by case and city by city – then it will be successful.”


Hannah Jo Uy is Assistant Editor at Climate Control Journal and Climate Control Middle East magazine. She may be contacted at

U4E Initiative to accelerate adoption of sustainable cooling solutions in developing economies

Brian Holuj

PARIS, France, 6 August 2019: The UN Environment’s United for Efficiency (U4E) Initiative partners with developing and emerging economies to accelerate the switch to energy-efficient and climate-friendly cooling solutions, said Brian Holuj, Programme Officer, U4E. Holuj added that implementing the right policies and frameworks is key to sustainable development, which ensures economic growth, enhances energy security, improves health and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from refrigerators and air conditioners.

Touching on key activities under the programme, Holuj said that there are currently six financial mechanisms underway to unlock USD 30 million in investment towards energy-efficient and climate-friendly cooling products. Considering the diversity in the demographic, political frameworks and economies of countries across Africa, Holuj said that it is important for U4E to identify an approach that is scalable for all types of communities, taking into account the different varieties of products. “It has to be a balance,” he said. “It’s not one financial mechanism to save all, but a way to use innovative finance to unlock adoption of efficient cooling. We are trying to understand the environment, the utility tariffs, the lending rates from banks and what sort of testing can be done to products to make sure of the quality. We are in 40 countries around the world, so there are a lot of insights we can bring, and we are trying to see what makes sense in the local market.”

Holuj added that U4E is actively working with more than 10 countries to pilot National Product Registration Systems to monitor the market, get data, enforce rules, share information and facilitate compliance. “We are trying to come up with a common template to make it easier for manufacturers,” he said. “[Rather than having] to comply with many different types of monitoring systems, if they had to just have one sort of data entry at one time, it makes it easier. We are trying to come up with tools to lower transaction cost for manufacturers and help government monitor what’s happening [in the market].”

During the inception meeting for ECOFRIDGES Project, one of the initiatives under U4E, in Dakar, Senegal in May 2019

Holuj shared that U4E is also coming up with two Model Regulations for air conditioners and refrigerators by way of addressing minimum energy performance standards, which are aimed at regional harmonisation across Africa and beyond. “We look at local trends, performance, MEPS and labeling that countries are setting and coming up with a common set of MEPS and labeling requirements as a starting point for them to consider,” he explained. “Of course, they have to understand context of the market and talk to industries.”

Holuj said local governments can also help drive a lot of adoption, especially if government procurement practices show stricter preference for energy-efficient products. “There are different ways we hit at different audiences,” he said. “We don’t ever want to be in a situation where we only talk to one ministry or one company or one village representative. We engage with a cross-section.” Holuj stressed that all of U4E’s work is undertaken in partnership with government and with energy environmental ministries, and conducted in consultation with local industries. “We are dealing with policy, capacity building, community outreach and financial mechanisms,” he said. “We need to understand private-sector perspective, government perspective and civil society perspective.”

Holuj said that the model regulations also aim to address GWP refrigerant limits across emerging countries. “It really depends on the availability within the respective market and on what’s viable,” he said. “We do not just recommend some number that is made up. It’s going to depend on what’s practical in the market place. We are technology-neutral, and it depends on the ambition of country and what’s appropriate.” Holuj said that this task is easier when it comes to refrigerators, considering well over half the new residential refrigerants are using R-600A. “We are encouraging the use of something along those lines and putting GWP upper limit in that neighborhood,” he said, “But we have to see what market assessment is showing.”

Holuj said that while energy efficiency is driving efforts to adopt sustainable refrigeration, the need to strengthen the cold chain in a bid to reduce food loss and food waste, especially in the high-ambient conditions of Africa, is also of equal importance. “The project deals with both policy and outreach as much as it does [with] the financial scheme,” he said. “It is really in the policy arena, where we can make recommendations on the cold chain. Refrigeration is an important piece, and the last step in the chain is to help avoid massive food losses of 40-50% of the crops grown, which spoil before they reach consumers.” Holuj added that there is targeted work to create a leaner cold chain, ongoing in Rwanda. “It’s about coming up with sustainable business model with farmers.” he said. “It’s about cost-effective, reliable technology to pre-cool produce, clean, prepare, ship and maintain cold chain.”

Holuj emphasised that policies that incentivise adoption of more sustainable refrigeration and air conditioning equipment also create greater clarity in the market, which provides a clear price signal to manufacturers. “If you talk about better economies of scale, more people buying energy-efficient products will, hopefully, lower products prices,” he said. If a country has no labelling or energy efficiency standards, Holuj added,  manufacturers have to compete with used products dumped from oversees, making it difficult to introduce more efficient products to local consumers, which is currently a challenge facing markets across Africa.

Engie: India sets ambitious renewable energy goals

Frederic Claux

DUBAI, UAE, 6 August 2019: India has set very ambitious goals in the renewable energy sector, said Frederic Claux, Head of Assets, Engie MESCAT, and board member, Tabreed, adding that the positive momentum relating to renewables is largely driven by the government, which has been proactive in launching tenders.

Claux was sharing his observations in view of Engie’s strong activities in India’s renewable energy sector, working on solar and wind. “We have been bidding over the last few years on wind and solar projects to the point that we reached 1.5-gigawatt of capacity,” he said. Claux added, however, that as the country looks to diversify its energy mix, “the best energy is the one you don’t use”. As such, he said, energy efficiency is high on the agenda of policymakers. “I’m sure they have this in mind when drafting these polices,” he said. “They are aware, they understand the need and they are taking the right steps – the direction is set.”

Owing to growing appreciation for energy-efficiency initiatives, Claux said that the company sees strong growth potential in India for District Cooling. “New cities are being developed, which gives the possibility to plan infrastructure with the inclusion of DC from day one,” he said. “This means installing plant, chillers and a distribution network from the outset.” Claux said the benefits of District Cooling is especially amplified in big cities, where density is high.  “Density allows you to optimise the load,” he said. “You can’t install District Cooling networks in a low-density area. You need cities, you need density.” Speaking on any potential bottlenecks for acceptance, however, Claux said the only concern is related to cost. “To implement District Cooling, the investment is greater than cheaper, short-term options, but the longer-term benefits are what matters more,” he said.

Claux pointed out that with India being such a huge and diverse country, with big differences between urban and rural populations, the levels of awareness about the environment and building policies reflect this diversity, as well. While District Cooling has strong potential across the country, he said, it is still largely a niche market.

ECOFRIDGES Initiative leverages innovative financial mechanisms to enable adoption of efficient cooling products across Africa

Brian Holuj

PARIS, France, 29 July 2019: The main objective of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Refrigerators and Air Conditioners Initiative (ECOFRIDGES) is to use innovative financial mechanisms to enable consumers to better afford high-performing, energy-efficient cooling products using more climate-friendly refrigerants, said Brian Holuj, Programme Officer – United for Efficiency (U4E) initiative, Energy Unit, UN Environment. Holuj pointed out that U4E adopts a holistic approach in its mission to accelerate the switch to energy-efficient cooling products. Typically, he said, they focus on a country and convene top officials from neighbouring countries to encourage them to do something similar. In the ECOWAS region, he said, they are looking at best practices in Ghana and Senegal in terms of policies and are working with ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) to scale up projects across the region.

Following the kickoff meeting, Holuj said U4E conducted market assessments and feasibility studies on different kinds of financial mechanisms, considering economic and political frameworks vary greatly among countries. “We are trying to understand who the major actors are, the status of current and planned policies, and the type of equipment being sold,” he said

Holuj said that in Ghana, regulations are more straightforward, as the government has already implemented a market monitoring system. This is not the case for other developing countries, he said, where, commonly, there is no tracking of products sold, which allows for used and inefficient products to enter the market. “In Ghana, they banned importation of used appliances,” Holuj said, adding that U4E supports such initiatives to be implemented throughout the continent. “For products to come in through ports of entry, they had to have been tested and registered with the government, and the government maintains a database,” he said. “[This is a] collaborative effort between customs officials, border agents and the energy commission that helps oversee the system and data. It’s a cross-governmental effort to make sure products coming in are properly assessed.”

Holuj pointed out that although the purchase price for highly energy-efficient products is higher, the life cycle cost is significantly lower and that, through the initiative, U4E aims to tackle that first-cost barrier. “There is experience in Ghana already,” he said. “They did an interesting rebate scheme about five years ago, where they deployed quite a few energy-efficient refrigerators. We want to look at lessons learned and look at different types of financial mechanisms to promote efficient refrigeration.” Holuj said Ghana has also started recycling of refrigeration products and that U4E looks to scale up the recycling initiative to address air conditioners, as well and how such policies can be applied in Senegal and other countries, which have no targeted recycling programme for refrigerators and air conditioners.

Inception meeting of the ECOFRIDGES Project in Dakar, Senegal in May 2019.

In terms of energy efficiency requirements, Holuj confirmed that U4E will use seasonal performance metric for air conditioners, provided it is adapted according to the national context. “In the case of Ghana, they already have a MEPS system and labelling,” he said. “We want to tie that in with the existing approach the country has undertaken. We aim for something highly efficient for Ghana’s context. In terms of Senegal, they haven’t adopted labeling tiers yet, but again we want to set something highly efficient.”

Holuj said that U4E met with international standardisation bodies, as well, but that application depends on local application. “ECOWAS has been proactive in standards bodies in collaboration with ECREEE,” he said. “There is some alignment with policies in the products. For example, looking at common test procedures, common performance requirements and trying to take our cues from where they are and where they want to go next.”

Holuj said U4E actively engages with manufactures, usually through local and authorised dealers, to get feedback and discuss pathways towards compliance. “We tend to have public, private and civil society on the policy side, but you need input of all on financial mechanisms,” he said. “We want manufacturers to participate, but we are not trying to promote all ranges of products. We want manufacturers who are looking to sell highly energy-efficient products interested in this sort of thing. We don’t restrict – anyone can participate in these schemes as long as they meet a certain criteria.”

Holuj said that the exercise will not only provide more people with sustainable cooling solutions, it would create a business case for manufacturers to further invest in rolling out more efficient refrigeration and air conditioning equipment. “If the consumer has no idea that the product doesn’t use twice as much efficiency and if manufacturers aren’t receiving a clear policy or market signal, they would typically compete based on purchase and first cost,” he said. “We are trying to create a level playing field and transparency for manufacturers and trying to have more efficient products for consumers – it’s where labelling comes in, and then there have to be tests of products to make sure everyone is playing by the right rules.”

Power corridors can unlock RE potential

Dr Floris Hendrikus Schulze

Dubai, UAE, 23 July 2019: Electrical interconnections would unlock the renewable energy potential of the Middle East region, strengthen political relations of the involved countries and usher in a more efficient evolution of the power system, said Dr Floris Hendrikus Schulze, Managing Director, CESI Middle East FZE. Dr Schulze said that presently, CESI is deeply involved in the pre-feasibility study for a potential power corridor between Middle East and North Africa and, potentially, to Europe. He added that the company is assessing the potential of the electricity market in the GCC region, which, he said, is key to restructuring the power sectors of the Middle East.

Concerning a GCC region energy corridor, Dr Schulze pointed out that an interconnection linking all the countries is already present. “It has been used successfully already for many years for improving the reliability of the GCC region system during emergencies and to share generation reserves,” he said. “The next step to fully exploit the opportunities offered by the interconnection is to increase the electricity trading among the countries, which is currently limited due to the still early stages of market restructuring of the power sectors of the GCC region countries.” Dr Schulze said that increased utilisation of the energy interconnection will advance efforts to integrate renewable energy to the grid by allowing the countries to export power when there is an excess of generation from renewables.

Commenting on news reports surrounding Saudi Arabia’s growing interest in exporting power to countries facing energy challenges, such as Iraq, Dr Schulze said that power trading is a concrete possibility. Dr Schulze said that considering Iraq is facing a significant problem of load curtailment, exploring electricity imports as a means of improving the situation is vital. “This need well combines with the characteristics of KSA’s power system and GCC region countries, because they generally have enough generation capacity and availability of primary fuels, making them interested in electricity export,” he said.

As many countries in the Middle East are investing in solar power, Dr Schulze also touched on opportunities with regard to solar wheeling, where electricity generated in one location can be purchased directly by a company or institution in another – a prevalent practice in Jordan. “The success of such kind of projects depends [on] the existence of a positive business case for the private [sector] for self-consuming or self-buying electricity from PV plants instead of from the grid,” he said. “The electricity tariffs paid by the electricity customers, therefore, play a major role – the higher the cost of electricity from the grid, the higher the interest for privates to go for wheeling options.” In relation to the GCC region, Dr Schulze said that the electricity tariffs are generally accompanied by strong subsidies, with customers incurring low costs for electricity. As such, to make wheeling projects more attractive, he said there must be a move to restructure the power sector and cut the subsidies to provide correct price signals for energy consumption to the customers and increase the economic efficiency of the power system as a whole.

Siemens Gamesa: Thermal storage paving the way for a more resilient energy future

Antonio de la Torre

ZAMUDIO, Spain, 11 July 2019: A resilient renewable energy framework is not only feasible, it is inevitable, Antonio de la Torre, Chief Technology Officer, Siemens Gamesa, said following the company’s recent launch of its electrothermal energy storage system. de la Torre said he sees a future of renewable power integrating wind, solar and storage at the same time, with storage powering the grid and managed directly by the grid regulators. “That means in the future, country regulators will deliver stored energy, whenever the grid demands it,” he said.

De la Torre said that Siemens Gamesa is currently in the process of developing the technology and has completed the first prototype of five megawatt hours. “We are now jumping to 130 megawatt hours of energy,” he said. “The last quantum leap we need to perform to make it commercially viable will be the validation of our next one-gigawatt-hour installation. At this stage, by 2022-2025 we´ll be competitive with the rest of the technologies in the energy market.”

Discussing how the technology can be used to address requirements of systems that have traditionally placed a heavy load on the energy grid, de la Torre confirmed that the system can be used to resolve the issue of air conditioning equipment overloading the grid. De la Torre pointed out that since there will be countries where solar or wind power will be guaranteed for some part of the day and provide excessive energy, the excess of energy can be stored in a big installation capable of storing one gigawatt hour of energy quite soon. “Within a 10-15 years’ timeframe, storage capacity will range from 15 to 20 gigawatt hours,” he said. “This means that stored energy will be delivered to the grid by the regulator, and excess demand required for air conditioning devices can be addressed by these types of installations.”

De la Torre said that he has no doubt the price of storage systems will only continue to be incrementally lower with time. “Our company foresees that the energy trading will continue evolving to lower costs,” he said. “And stored energy will contribute to get the energy prices lower when demand will show peaks.”

De la Torre shared that as the company has designed a very versatile system, the thermal storage can be applied in standalone configurations or as part of a hybrid solution combined with wind and solar windfarms. Such versatility, De La Torre said, extends to applications for the system in other regions, even amidst the harsh conditions across the Middle East. “We do not expect there to be challenges applying this technology to other parts of the world,” he said. “We create global solutions that can be customised to meet any country’s requirements. So, in the case of the Middle East we would be able to make some customisations to meet any particular grid requirements, or environmental issues.”

De la Torre weighed in on the future of energy trading, which he said, will be significantly different from present-day operations. “In line with our global strategy, we think that energy trading will be based on how different sources of energy can deliver in real time,” he said. “So, we foresee two prices for the energy – a price for energy available at any given time and a price for energy in storage. That is what we see in a simplified manner of what must happen as part of the energy transition.” Apart from the price issues, de la Torre said that critical infrastructures demanding energy in crisis scenarios are the ones that will get the biggest benefit from the massive thermal storage solution SGRE (Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy) is creating.

MANN+HUMMEL launches updated website

LUDWIGSBURG, Germany, 8 July 2019: The updated air filtration website from MANN+HUMMEL went live on July 3, the company announced through a Press communiqué. The website is the central information platform for all filtration solutions from MANN+HUMMEL for clean air in commercially used buildings, in industry, outdoors or indoors, traditional or digital, the communiqué said. The website is available as before at the address and with new features, which offer visitors even more flexibility when surfing and improved user-friendliness with a modern design, the communiqué said.

“The acquisition of the companies, Voles Air in 2014 and JACK Filter in 2017 has enabled MANN+HUMMEL to be active in the area of air filtration for a number of years and, therefore, has almost 100 years of filtration expertise in the market segments for HVAC, cleanroom, industrial, power generation and operating theatres,” said Kathrin Sauter, Director, Marketing Communications, MANN+HUMMEL Life Sciences & Environment. “In August 2018, we extended our activities to North America with the acquisition of Tri-Dim and in future will also offer an extensive range of filtration solutions for clean air in Asia. The current relaunch of our website is a further step to position MANN+HUMMEL as a leading filtration expert also for clean air.”

Johnson Controls: Middle East has a strong culture of innovation

Terrill R Laughton

Dubai, UAE, 25 June 2019: The Middle East has a strong culture of innovation, said Terrill R Laughton, Vice President and General Manager, Energy Optimization & Connected Offerings, Johnson Controls’ Building Technologies & Solutions Division. Laughton stressed that the regional market’s willingness to try new technologies is largely driven by broader initiatives from the government through regional visions that set high-level goals in terms of sustainability, which helps drive the acceptance and adoption of new applications. He said, “Getting government entities to support and sponsor these initiatives and push rules and regulations around energy efficiency obviously helps spur the dynamic in terms of being able to do more innovative things to drive energy efficiency and sustainability.”

Laughton said that while in the United States and in other markets there are a lot of companies and organisations that are innovative, from his experience there is still a need to get potential customers interested in new applications. “Here, it seems most customers we talk to already have some interest in these applications and are moving in that direction,” he said. Laughton pointed to the high number of participants during Johnson Controls’ Innovation Day Middle East and Africa in February 2019 as an example of local stakeholders’ strong interest in smart technology and its applications in the built-environment.

The SABER impact on industry

Dubai, UAE, 29 May 2019: In 2018, Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) announced the launch of the SABER electronic platform, which “aimed to register and issue conformity assessment certificates for consumer products before entering the Saudi market”[1]. This came into effect on January 1, 2019, according to Intertek’s fact sheet[2] on the new system, which also noted that on April 1, the SABER platform was extended to include electrical products imported and sold into the market.

According to Intertek, there are two certifications required by importers. The first is the Product Certification of Conformity (PCoC), issued online in the SABER platform. This can be obtained by the importer by adding product information on the SABER platform, selecting a SASO-approved certification body (CB) for issuance of PCoC and paying the related fees. The CB then accesses the SABER platform to check for importer requests to facilitate the conformity assessment of the product, to verify the results and to upload qualifying valid documents into the SABER system. Following the procedure, the PCoC is then issued online through SABER and would be valid for one year.

The second requirement, noted in Intertek’s factsheet on the system, is the Shipment Certificate of Conformity (SCoC), to ensure “every regulated product included in the shipment will be verified by the CB to ensure there is an existing valid PCoC”. If a valid PCoC is confirmed, an SCoC is issued.” To obtain the SCoC, the importer sends an online request via SABER for products to be imported. The CB then verifies if there is a valid PCoC for every regulated product and determines whether selective inspection is required. If the PCoC is verified, the CB confirms through SABER that it has been found to be true and performs selective inspection, if applicable. The importer then pays the SCoC fees, and an SCoC is issued online in SABER, which is valid only for that specific shipment.

Johan Gouws

Johan Gouws, Managing Director, Middle East, Tecumseh, said that stakeholders in the engineering community understand that fundamentally, “consumer safety and product quality is at the very heart and core of the SABER programme”. However, Gouws said that Tecumseh experienced some difficulty understanding the new framework, requirements and procedure – a point voiced by other manufacturers and suppliers eager to find clarity on the process, in order to comply with the new regulations. “When our importer went online, they had difficulty in navigating the registration process,” Gouws said. “The site had limited accessibility, and not all the certified bodies that are approved for the SASO certification process were listed.” He said that although the company was informed that non-registered products would no longer be allowed for import after January 1, the deadline was moved and, to the best of his knowledge, there is no fixed date yet on when SABER will finally go live.

Rahul Bhatia

Rahul Bhatia, Logistics Controller, Turkey, Middle-East & Africa, Danfoss Middle East, said that the company is also waiting for official updates, as the SABER system has not gone live for all sectors. “The challenge is for companies with a diverse portfolio of products,” he explained. “SABER has currently gone live for gas-operated equipment, toys, low-voltage equipment (LVE) and engine lubricants. On the horizon are building materials and textiles/apparels. What concerns importing parties in KSA are massive increase in costs to register products on SABER, when compared to traditional model of certification through authorised certification bodies.”

Pontus Grimberg

For Pontus Grimberg, Export Director, Lighting Solutions, Fagerhult, the issue is a particularly pressing one. “We have one shipment in the customs in Saudi Arabia yet to be released due to the fact they changed the regulations,” he said, sharing that on April 1, the company was asked for additional requirements in the form of an EER certificate to measure energy consumption of lighting, in addition to the CB certificate under the PCoC.

The industry experience so far

Much of what the stakeholders do know come from their own experience or “market hearsay” in attempting to understand the process. Bhatia said that as importers need to make sure goods are registered in the SABER portal, customers that regularly purchase a range of commodities from Danfoss are reaching out to request for technical data, as it is their responsibility to upload the data to the SABER system. “There are two ways of doing this,” he explained. “First is per product, if you wish to, or products by group. Registration by single product may seem a good option but supports small-scale traders only. There are traders who deal with a portfolio of over 50,000 product lines, such as automobile spare parts manufacturers or FMCG goods, like apparel, who would ideally choose the grouping method.” Bhatia added that the registration price ranges from SAR 3,000 (USD 799.95), in an ideal scenario with prior required paperwork availability, to as much as SAR 10,000 (USD 2,666.50), in a scenario where products require test certificates to meet specific global standards or testing as per specific schemes of electrical products. He added that customers can upload products by group and pay an annual registration fee for the product group, rather than for each product. Bhatia said this information is based on customers of Danfoss, many of whom are registering products by groups.

Speaking on behalf of Tecumseh, Gouws said that historically, compressors, which fall under the low voltage directive regulatory framework, need to be registered per product, in compliance with SASO certification. “Moving forward with the SABER programme the same will apply,” he said. “Products imported need to be registered at the product level.” The catch, Gouws said, is the SAR 500 (USD 133.32) fee to register the product in the system, paid annually by the importer. A cost that will now need to be absorbed directly by the importer.

Having said that, Gouws stressed that for manufacturers that don’t have the necessary certification, meeting this requirement would be a challenge. “When importers register a product, they need to select which certified body they will use for approval of their product,” he said. “Through that process, the product importer registers each product in the SABER portal. Part of this registration process is to upload comprehensive technical data and product certification. This data is then checked and verified to confirm that it adheres to the minimum SASO/IEC technical standards required for import into Saudi Arabia. If the data provided is okay, you get approval for the product. If the product is not approved, based on the data and technical information uploaded, you will then need to approach the certified body to complete physical testing. The total cost for getting product tested and certified by an external approved certified body can run up to USD 20,000 per product, and take between six and eight weeks to get completed. Do manufacturers have an option to shop from other than the approved list? The answer is ‘no’. There is a select number of approved bodies for testing, if you want your product approved.”

Grimberg stressed that this is an additional challenge for products that have a wide variety, speaking from the company’s experience trying to understand the full weight of the requirements to move forward with distribution. “We need to pay a lot for certificates,” he said. “We are trying to register per family in SABER, but our family contains enormous article numbers, sometimes thousands. Once they enforce CB, you can register per family, but there is a limit of 100. Within our own range, not all lights even need the CB certificate, so it’s new for us also.”

Cost implications of compliance

Bhatia said the implications vary from industry to industry and sometimes from company to company and on the type of commodity. This was echoed by Grimberg. “We are fortunate that we are large in size and we have a technical director that knows regulations,” he said. “Our lab can also do third-party testing, so we can do the test ourselves and it’s more or less about doing the paperwork and receiving the CB certificate. But it’s still 5-6 weeks. If you don’t have a lab, you have to go to a certified laboratory and that can take anything from two months to half a year for a test report. For a small manufacturer it would be tough. It’s also hard for them to get the proper knowledge on the process.” Grimberg explained that if a company has one family of products and can get through the process with only one registration, they are able to survive and the impact of the additional cost would be minimal. However, Grimberg said, for companies that have a wide and diverse range of products, the cost of complying with certification requirements would be significant.

Bhatia said that a number of stakeholders are already concerned about the additional layer of cost – owing to the registration fee of products, which is renewed annually – and the shipment fee, both of which fall on the importers. “Generally, our job is to give historical data on classification, technical information and orders,” he said. With the need to register in SABER, there has been in significant increase in supply timelines to KSA for various industries.

Bhatia added that the conformity structure will contribute to Saudi Arabia’s economy and that manufacturers having a significant share in the Saudi market would look to develop their own plants in the Kingdom to reinforce long-term position in the local market. Grimberg also said that the new requirements would further nudge companies that are looking to develop production plants in Saudi Arabia but that given the high level of investment required to do so, manufacturers’ willingness will depend on the market share and opportunities in the Kingdom and whether there will be changes in the requirements down the line.

[All currency conversions made as per May 29, 2019 exchange rate]




Natural refrigerants key to meeting carbon reduction targets, says AEFYT

Félix Sanz

Madrid, Spain, 27 May 2019: Natural refrigerants, such as CO2, ammonia and hydrocarbons play a vital role in efforts to meet the F-Gas Regulation’s ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions, said Félix Sanz, Deputy Manager, AEFYT, the Spanish Association for Refrigeration Technology. Sanz said that manufacturers in the refrigeration industry in Spain have showed their support for the cause by developing and installing equipment that can accommodate natural refrigerants and fine-tuning issues related to performance and safety. “The refrigeration industry has made an enormous effort to respond to the challenges of the environmental transition, and natural refrigerants are a very important pillar in this regard,” he said

Sanz said that quality training is more important now than ever before as natural refrigerants gain prominence in the market. The new refrigeration systems, he stressed, require personnel with proper training with regard to safety, energy efficiency, digitalisation and environmental sustainability to ensure that proper measures can be taken when it comes to controlling leakage and to the recovery and recycling of refrigerants. He added that only properly trained and qualified installers can ensure optimal operation and maintenance of the refrigeration equipment.

India showcases growing adoption of low-GWP refrigerants

Pune, India, 19 May 2019: In India, there is a growing awareness among stakeholders in the HVACR sector on the need to adopt low-GWP refrigerants, said Arvind Surange, CMD, ACR Project Consultants Pvt. Ltd. He said, “India has already been a party to sign the Kigali Agreement, and accordingly, the high-GWP refrigerants will be replaced as per the accepted phasedown schedule.”

Outlining trends related to refrigerants, Surange said that in the air conditioning sector, R32 and R410 are being used by manufacturers for a number of products. Traditionally, he added, the Indian refrigeration sector has been using ammonia, a natural refrigerant, for medium- and large-sized industrial applications and cold chain. “In the smaller plant segment, HFCs R-134a and R-404a are still being used, but as stated, India is a party to the Kigali Agreement, and the phasedown of these will start from 2028, when substitute refrigerants with lower GWP will be adopted,” he said. Citing positive developments, Surange said a number of companies in the appliances segment are already offering systems based on R-290 and R-600.

Surange added that India has already made a headway in the production of absorption systems with Li-Br combination, for air conditioning applications as well as for refrigeration applications by developing units that can produce temperatures of up to minus 5 degrees C. “The units are also available based on ammonia-water combination for applications up to minus 30 degrees C,” he said. “Thus, with the adoption of absorption systems, the use of HFCs is eliminated, both in the air conditioning and refrigeration segment.” Surange added that CO2 is also being looked at as a replacement for high-GWP refrigerants, though it may take a few years for natural refrigerants to make inroads in India, owing to technological issues.



Highview Power outlines applications for cryogenic energy storage across Middle East

Javier Cavada

Dubai, UAE, 15 May 2019: Middle East countries with a growing solar and wind fleet, along with countries that need to strengthen the grid and improve security of supply, are the two main categories of customers that could greatly benefit from Highview Power’s cryogenic systems, said Javier Cavada, CEO. He added: “In areas with very good sun resources, such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, and UAE, we see our technology being used to support ‘load shifting’ – providing the ability to capture solar power during the day and store and use it during the night hours. That enables base load renewable generation.”

For the second category, Cavada said that he believes countries like Jordan and Lebanon would benefit from reactive power supply to the grid as well as traditional energy storage. In view of the growing importance the region is placing on District Cooling, Cavada said that the technology has potential in residential agglomerations, where it is possible to connect a storage facility to residential areas that could use low potential cold from the cold storage. Cold captured during the gasification stage, he said, can be distributed to residential compounds to improve efficiency of the air conditioning process.

Elaborating further on applications for District Cooling, Cavada explained that Highview Power’s CRYOBattery technology, in its standard configuration, recycles all heat and cold generated within the process to optimise the cycle’s efficiency, as well as maintain certain components at operational temperatures to maximise flexibility and response. He said, “There is some potential for our systems to provide additional cooling to adjacent systems, such as cooling networks, should the operator deem this as greater value, as removing cold from the process will have an impact on the overall round-trip efficiency (RTE) of the energy storage cycle.” Cavada emphasised that the level of impact depends on the amount of cold removed. “The more cold that is removed the lower the storage cycle RTE, and the perceived value of this cold to the cooling network,” he said. Thus, Cavada stressed, a holistic assessment of the specific project economics is required, starting with the size of core energy storage system required to support the energy network and its minimum performance.

With technology surrounding energy storage continuously evolving, Cavada said that growing production volumes will improve the economics of energy storage and drive its adoption. “Even at today’s project financial parameters, hybrid solutions, like Solar-PV, plus Highview’s CRYOBattery, are very competitive and help promote the ‘baseload renewables’ concept,” he said. Cavada added that the solution also becomes very competitive for long duration of storage, such as for those exceeding four hours, and offers the most reasonable project economics owing to low levelised cost of electricity storage (LCOS) coupled with System Support benefits. “Two key long-term benefits are almost no degradation over time and the ability to easily utilise all the materials after decommissioning, since the CRYOBattery uses benign materials,” he added.

Multiple sectors, Cavado emphasised, will greatly benefit from deploying the solution. “Electrical system operators benefit through network management and provision of Black Start service,” he said. “Market regulators benefit through enablement of increased capacity of renewables on the grid. And remote location consumers, such as hospitals and water treatment plants benefit through energy security assurance and building baseload renewable hybrid configurations.” Cavado emphasised that Highview Power brings to the table the technical knowledge necessary for efficient integration, as the company leverages its experience designing and operating Cryogenic Energy Systems (CES) over the past of 10 years by developing a proprietary control system, which encapsulates that knowledge and experience in a bid to guarantee performance and flexibility standards.

US meat products’ global competitive advantage underpinned by strict food safety practices

Dubai, UAE, 4 May 2019: Strict standards related to food safety practices uphold the quality associated with meat products from the United States, said Dan Halstrom, President and CEO, US Meat Export Federation. “We have to ensure there is confidence in the quality and safety of our products, which we spend a lot of time on,” he said. “I would argue that the food production system in the US and globally is improving every day. I think the US is definitely at the forefront, where we put our products against anybody in the world.” Halstrom said that, as such, there are strict protocols related to temperature monitoring and the cold chain, which do not allow for variations in temperature throughout the process, starting from the slaughter to fabrication, and from handling to distribution.

Halstrom said that from his observations of the members of the Meat Exporters’ Federation, the companies are focused on doing things the right way by implementing internal quality standards, in terms of training and complying with international shipping standards. This, he said, also extends to integration of sophisticated monitoring systems. Halstrom explained that meat products are shipped either frozen or chilled. “In the case of frozen meat, it’s flash-frozen immediately,” he said. “In the case of chilled [products], it’s maintained in a vacuum-packed form at a very constant temperature, usually around 0 degrees Celsius, all the way to the end consumer, be it in Japan, Korea or a lot of other markets that take chilled beef.”

Similarly, Halstrom said strict monitoring protocols are implemented in inland trucks that travel across states, as well as in vessels, which are responsible for a lot of distribution in the country through major inlets, such as in the Mississippi River, Missouri River and in the Gulf of Mexico. He added that most monitoring systems are computerised and accurate down to a variation of one degree Celsius. The real-time monitoring offered by sophisticated computerised systems, he said, ensures reliability.

Halstrom said that although he believes there is high degree of awareness among US meat exports on the importance of a strong cold chain, it is important to continuously educate the market on best practices in this regard. “It is important in our domestic business,” he said. “And it is even more important in our international business. Our organisation, almost everything we do in some way, shape or form is about education.” This, he said, is what sets meat products from the US apart from other products in the marketplace.

Spain spearheading renewable energy revolution, says Highview Power

London, United Kingdom, 1 May 2019: The Spanish market is positioning itself at the forefront of the renewables revolution, said Javier Cavada, CEO, Highview Power, emphasising that local utilities are taking leadership roles, globally, in wind and solar power. “Spain is set for a major solar surge, and its local PV market Is expected to become one of the largest markets in Europe, especially since the government removed the “sun tax” and committed to 100% renewable power by 2050,” he said. In 2018, there was an increase of 94% in new PV installed capacity, compared to 2017, showing that the Spanish renewable energy industry is overcoming the political uncertainty from previous years, he said.

Cavada pointed out that the country is also blessed with some of the best conditions in Europe for solar and wind energy. “The electricity sector is completely liberalised, while the market is subject to a high degree of regulation,” he said. “Spain’s renewable electricity regulations are governed by the common framework for the generation and promotion of renewable energy established by the European Union, which establishes national targets on renewable energy generation, reduction of greenhouse-effect gas emissions and energy efficiency.”

Speaking on Highview Power’s cryogenic energy-storage technology, Cavada said that it is classified by Spanish National Grid (REE) as renewable technology, due to its zero-emissions and to its long-duration-storage capabilities. He added that the technology is expected to complement the traditional hydro-assets to enable the surge of wind and solar power to increasingly become renewable baseload.

Metito: Global players view sub-Saharan Africa with enthusiasm

Fady Juez

Dubai, UAE, 25 April 2019: In view of the growing pipeline of projects in Africa driven by investments from international institutions, such as the World Bank, global players are viewing the region with much enthusiasm, said Fady Juez, Managing Director, Metito, who added that there is especially strong interest among companies to participate in the growth of sub-Saharan countries. “Of course, things take longer because of the infrastructure and of how the bureaucratic system works,” he said, “but it’s going in the right direction.”

Juez said that Metito is also investing into expanding its presence across the region. While the company has been active in North Africa since the late 1960s, Juez said that more focus is being placed in growing the business in Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, along with other eastern African countries. He emphasised that Egypt continues to be a strong driver of projects for the whole region. “In the past 2-3 years, there has been a tremendous move to invest in building and rebuilding the whole infrastructure,” he said. “We are seeing a huge amount of business potential.” He added that the company was also successful in the first ever public private partnership (PPP) project in Kigali, Rwanda, and that he believes this will be a trend for the rest of the region.

Exports serve as main growth engine for HVACR industry in Italy

Giandomenico Lombello

Padua, Italy 28 March 2019: For the main Italian players in the HVACR sector, exports are the growth engine, said Giandomenico Lombello, Group Managing Director, Carel. Speaking with regard to the company’s own expansion, Lombello shared that the growth of Carel is intrinsically linked to exports, which account for a major part of total sales, confirming the Group’s international nature.

For several decades, Lombello said, Carel’s expansion strategy aimed at being physically closer to its customers and that, to date, Carel has seven production sites, 22 sales subsidiaries and business interests in 22 different countries.

Commenting on trends with regard to acquisitions, Lombello emphasised that in Italy as well as in the rest of Europe there are many medium-sized companies that occupy an interesting position in the market and have significant products in terms of cost and performance. “For Carel, with extensive operations in EMEA,” he said, “these acquisitions often become an opportunity to make ourselves known to buyers, if they are not already our customer.”

Resiliency drives renewed interest in District Energy in the United States

Gary Phetteplace

Dubai, UAE, 25 April 2019: Although progress of District Heating and District Cooling in the United States has remained largely stagnant, there has been renewed interest in the past 5-10 years, said Gary Phetteplace, President, GWA Research, Member, ASHRAE. “A lot of it has to do with microgrids assuring resiliency,” he said. “Mostly, we learned from bad storms that the grid is not very durable, and if you want to have an assured supply then you’re probably going to have to take care of it yourself.” Phetteplace said that the need for self-reliance has been driving District Energy, as often, there is a surplus of heat, which makes cogeneration – even tri-generation – more cost-effective, a trend he has readily observed across universities.

Phetteplace said that cooling demand in the United States is continuing to grow. “It’s not just because people want air conditioned environments,” he said. “The heat loads inside our buildings are getting greater, with more computer equipment and printers and all.” In addition to more equipment entering buildings, Phetteplace pointed out that tighter building envelopes to conserve energy mean that most spaces do not lose heat as easily as they did before. It is a combination of these factors, he said, that has created a requirement for cooling more than heating over the years.

Africa cultivates energy-mix to address needs of 80% of population still living off-grid

Kampala, Uganda, 8 April 2019: In Africa, 80% of the population still lives off-grid, said Morrison Rwakakamba, Global Senior Director of Policy, Fenix International, a company of Engie, to underscore the massive energy requirement across the continent, which houses over one billion people. This, he said, has prompted the governments in Africa to pursue an energy-mix. “Most African countries are signatories of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and are looking at universal access to electricity,” he pointed out. “That approach has been domesticated and ratified as part of the national governments’ plans and strategies, and been opened to the private sector through PPP.” In the next 20-50 years, he said, solar solutions will be a fundamental part of the region’s energy-mix, emphasising that “decentralised energy systems are the future”.

Rwakakamba said the expanding market base in Africa was one of the drivers that prompted the company to transfer the global headquarters from San Francisco, in the United States, to Uganda. “We wanted to be closer to our customers,” he said. “Our approach is to make sure people experience the life-changing products that Fenix delivers, and provide quick feedback to customers.”

Rwakakamba said the company is committed to helping Africa move through the energy ladder. Elaborating on this, Rwakakamba said, in tier one, people need light and a power source to charge their phones. Tier two, he said, requires more energy capacity that will allow for appliances, such as televisions or radios. The following tiers, he said, determine energy supply that can address refrigerators and air conditioners. Fenix, he said, is currently focused on making sure that Africa has round-the-clock access to light. Addressing tier-one requirements, he emphasised, will go a long way in transforming lives and empowering the economy, by allowing children to study throughout the night, supporting men and women operating small- and medium-sized business and powering telecommunications for people to have greater access to information. That said, Rwakakamba also pointed out that Africa is urbanising at a rate of 4.5% and that the growing number of urbanites with increasing purchasing power is also creating demand for higher-tier, solar-solution capacities in order to have more appliances, such as air conditioning and refrigerators.

Following the establishment of the new global headquarters in Uganda, Rwakakamba said that Fenix has delivered electricity to 800,000 people in 2018 alone and aims to connect 250,000 more households in 2019, which will benefit one million people. He also pointed out that the company aims to provide employment opportunities and facilitate training to many Ugandan engineering students. The company, he added, is determined to expand its presence throughout Africa through collaboration with government entities, as well as energy-sector stakeholders. Outlining countries that offer the most opportunity, he said that in addition to Uganda, Ethiopia is a growing market, owing to the sheer population of the country, as is Nigeria.

District Cooling has strong potential for growth in Africa, says Metito

Dubai, 14 April 2019: There is strong growth potential for District Cooling in Africa, said Fady Juez, Managing Director, Metito. “We are believers that District Cooling is something good, commercially and environmentally,” he added, especially when compared to the inefficiencies of standalone cooling systems. However, Juez added, District Cooling is successful in urban centres, where there are networks of buildings, as it will make a case for the high initial cost required. As such, Juez said that he believes Egypt, particularly the capital of Cairo, would be a good entry point to advance the penetration of District Cooling in the region.

Juez said that with District Cooling being a high consumer of make-up water, there is a need to promote the use of treated sewage effluent (TSE) in order to optimise the region’s water resources, while addressing industrial and agricultural requirements. Currently, Juez said, Metito’s regional headquarters is located in Cairo, where the company has full-fledged operations that cover the requirement across the region.

India in top three fastest-growing District Cooling markets, says Engie

Dubai, UAE, 6 March 2019: India is in the top three fastest-growing District Cooling (DC) markets in the Asia Pacific region, said Frederic Claux, Head of Assets, Engie MESCAT and board member, Tabreed, highlighting the country’s position as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with 7-8% GDP annual growth forecast in the short-to-medium term. This he said, is largely owing to the rapid growth of real estate, creation of Smart and Green cities, increased purchasing power and ambitious plans for new developments.

Additionally, Claux said, the move to integrate energy efficiency as a core strategy in India’s development demonstrates the public sector’s commitment to address climate change and electricity disruption. He said: “Government stability and different measures taken to promote and enable energy-efficient solutions creates a positive context for the development of DC. Moreover UNEP, with whom Engie has established a close cooperation, is deeply involved in the promotion of DC, in the framework of the District Energy in Cities Initiative, in India.”

To underscore the growing acceptance of District Cooling in India, Claux pointed to the Amaravati District Cooling project, which, according to Engie, is Tabreed’s first project outside the GCC region and the first District Cooling project developed in PPP in India. The agreement between Tabreed and the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) is for a total capacity of 20,000 tonnes of refrigeration (TR) for over an area of one square km for government buildings. “In parallel with the great success of the Amaravati Capital City DC project that Tabreed has been awarded,” Claux said, “we are exploring a few other opportunities around the Mumbai area and in other areas in the Western regions. The potential for development of DC projects is very promising across the country.”

District Cooling, Claux stressed, is the backbone of smarter and sustainable cities and a way to improve resilience, pointing out that it is up to 50% more efficient than conventional stand-alone air conditioning solutions and produces 50% lower CO2 emissions, allowing for more efficient integration with locally available renewable resources for cooling production. He said, “The new energy world is characterised by decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitalisation, with modern District Energy systems at the heart of the energy revolution.”

Claux said, “Engie, together with its partners in different parts of the world, like Mubadala and Tabreed in the GCC region, believes that District Cooling will create tremendous value for customers and stakeholders and has identified it as a rapidly developing growth sector, which is significantly contributing to Engie’s transformation.” He added that with more than 1.3 million TR installed, and with the acquisition of 40% of Tabreed, “Engie has become the world’s independent leader in District Cooling”.


The virtue of ambition

The most environmentally friendly and cheapest energy is that which is not consumed in the first place,” says Thomas Damm, Technical Manager, Sector Department, Air Conditioning and Ventilation Technology, VDMA. This, he says, is why energy efficiency is viewed as key to unlocking the country’s objectives, namely Climate Action Programme’s 2020 interim target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels, as well as those under the German National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE).

With the building sector accounting for 40% of final energy consumption in Germany, and around one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, Damm says, the sector plays a key role in the country’s comprehensive energy and climate policies. “To this end, the German government has set itself the ambitious goal of achieving an almost climate-neutral building stock by 2050,” he says. “This means that primary energy requirements will be reduced by 80%, compared with 2008.” To achieve this, Damm says, the energy requirement for heating and cooling, as well as for ventilation technology, must be significantly reduced through efficiency measures and the share of renewable energies, in meeting the remaining demand, significantly increased.

With European and national laws impacting air conditioning and ventilation technology, Damm says the challenge for politics and the industry is to decouple CO2 emissions from economic growth. “In Germany, in addition to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), the German Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) is primarily relevant,” he says. “The latter implements Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) nationally and defines energy requirements for buildings and the technical building systems and installations contained therein. In addition to air conditioning and ventilation technology, this includes heating technology.”

Citing the September 2018 prohibition of the marketing of high-voltage halogen lamps in the European Union (EU) as an example of the continuous impact political programmes have on technologies’ market viability, Damm highlights the political will in the EU to steer markets toward its environmental agenda. Jens Schuberth, Umweltbundesamt (UBA; The Germany Environment Agency), believes German HVAC manufacturers are
on track when it comes to complying with regulations, due to the time afforded to them prior to the implementation, based on observing new product lines, with features reflecting the new requirements.

Forces driving manufacturers’ compliance

While Schuberth says market compliance is also reflective of Germany’s recognition of EU directives as a member state, Damm adds that voluntary adoption can also be attributed to system operators’ move to cut operating costs. “The continuous increase in the number of central ventilation and air-conditioning units equipped with heat-recovery measures, shows that this can also be done without bans,” Damm says. “Numerous factors can be decisive here — rising energy costs, certification systems for buildings user requirements or financial support measures by the public sector and/or state financial institutions.” Ultimately, Damm says, it is a mixture of instruments, constraints and incentives from stakeholders.

David Miller, Managing Director, Ziehl-Abegg Middle East, provides a manufacturer’s perspective, saying that while, admittedly, the move towards energy-efficient solutions is influenced by political pressure, many customers are also seeing the advantages of investing in such technologies with an eye towards operational savings. “When it comes to design, people are changing their ways,” he says, “which is positive in our point of view.”

Markus-Erich Strohmeier, Senior Executive Vice President, Siemens Building Technologies – Middle East, echoes the need to comply with customer requirements. “When considering cost, we believe it’s important to take into account the lifecycle of the technology and the impact it will have on the efficiency, availability, reliability and operating costs of a customer’s infrastructure during that time,” he says. “Ultimately, we want to ensure that our customers have all the data they need to make an informed choice regarding a product or supplier.”

Bissan Abbas, Managing Director, Techem Energy Services Middle East FZCO, adds that the growing attractiveness of energy-efficient solutions over conventional systems is also driven by rising costs in bigger cities over the years and that compliance with regulations has encouraged stakeholders to thoroughly study ROI to reach a break-even point.

The need for more stringent market surveillance and enhanced efforts towards IAQ

Overall, Damm says that manufacturers view regulations as positive tools for market transformation, towards more efficient products and systems. “It has also been shown in the past that German companies, in particular, with their highly developed products, manufactured with very good quality, have a market advantage — albeit limited in time — over competitors from outside the EU.” This advantage, he stresses, would be even higher if the market surveillance stipulated by the European legislator and given to the EU member states for implementation is carried out.

“However, the system is unfortunately weak and also makes market access possible for products that do not comply with EU law,” Damm says.

Schuberth echoes this, adding that despite energy efficiency inspections on air conditioners having been introduced in Germany as early as 2007, as part of the EU [Energy Performance of Buildings] Directive requirement, this has not been carried out to the extent necessary or expected. The inspections, Schuberth stresses, aimed to identify areas of improvement for building owners, in order to present them with the most economically attractive solution. “Three years ago, Germany started to register all inspections,” he says. “Only one-tenth of the inspections that people expected were carried out. So, there is quite a lack of surveillance and this is a great potential to improve air conditioning and ventilation.”

Another potential area of improvement that Damm believes requires greater attention is IAQ, which, he says, merits the same enthusiasm afforded to energy efficiency. “It is well known and proven that good IAQ is profitable in many ways,” he says, pointing to the indoor comfort in offices, shopping centres and schools, “but currently there are no legal requirements yet related to IAQ in residential and non-residential sectors.

What is there are recommendations from the WHO and the Federal Environment Agency in Germany. However, these are merely recommendations, compliance with which is not mandatory.” Damm says that this is incomprehensible, given that people spend most of their time inside buildings, arguing that much has already been said about the importance of energy efficiency.

Damm stresses that it is important that IAQ and energy efficiency are not considered separately or played off against each other. “The filter industry shows and proves it,” he says. “High-quality air filters enable a higher IAQ, with comparable or lower lifecycle costs over the service life of the filters. And this also applies to higher acquisition costs compared to lower-quality air filters. Improving the efficiency of air filters can help to ensure that IAQ does not remain a stepchild.”

Germany is not sitting on its laurels, as new regulations are underway that could potentially address these gaps. Damm says manufacturers and users are eagerly awaiting the new revision and redesign of legislation for buildings and technical installations, which has been announced by politicians for some time. “Specifically, the existing national legal provisions of the Energy Saving Act (EnEG), the Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) and the Renewable Energies Heat Act (EEWärmeG) are to be combined into a new regulation,” he says. “This awaited regulation is called the German Energy Act for Buildings (GEG).”

Schuberth says the lack of market surveillance and inspections could be addressed by the new regulations, recommending more effective controls over the energy performance certificates of the buildings. “There is the idea to have information in the building certificate of existing air conditioners that had to be inspected,” he says. “If the energy performance certificate were to be controlled, they could ask for inspection of air conditioners. It’s quite an indirect way that we hope could have some effect.”

Schuberth says that, additionally, gaps in market surveillance could be addressed by making air conditioners smarter, through the integration of monitoring equipment that detect operational efficiency and report to building owners in the event there are deficiencies. While promising, Schuberth says, this would be mainly applicable to new air conditioners.

Industry 4.0: The inevitability of the Internet of Things

With this recommendation, Schuberth touches on another observable trend in Germany: digitalisation. Citing “Industry 4.0” as the buzzword for 2018 in Germany and Europe, Damm says the advancing digitalisation in production and enhanced communication of devices offers new possibilities towards greater efficiency.

Miller shares a similar observation, reporting that customers are demanding more from their products. “The buzz word is cyber-physical systems,” he says. “Everything speaking to each other and manufacturers offering a lot more feedback that we did in the past.” Miller says this has prompted Ziehl-Abegg to work towards having the capability to connect networks to physical devices, such as sensor fans, frequency inverters and motors, to monitor health and efficiency. “This is an exciting time for us in terms of innovation dictated by our customers and this shift towards energy savings,” he says.

Strohmeier highlights how digitalisation is changing “the way we plan, design, build and operate infrastructure”. He says, “We see technologies, such as augmented reality and virtual reality increasing efficiency over the whole lifecycle of a building. Remote access, maintenance and servicing is gaining increasing relevance, and indoor positioning technology also has the potential to revolutionise the way we manage our infrastructure.”

Strohmeier stresses that Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a key topic that will have significant impact on the HVACR market.

Damm describes BIM as a developing tool for the optimised execution of construction projects. “BIM can and should consider all phases,” he says, “In the best case, BIM accompanies a building or plant from the first stroke of a pen to its demolition.” Damm stresses that through BIM, planning can be done in a cost-effective way to avoid typical building hazards and problems, such as, for example collisions of ducts and tubes, which can be identified early on in the design phase, and addressed by developing and implementing the most suitable solution. He adds that BIM also helps data management to optimise operation and maintenance. “Functioning BIM projects, which are kept up-to-date over the entire period of time, can prevent losses of important information, such as design calculations, design and construction plans or product documentation,” he says. “BIM is a growing system into which all participants must contribute. Anyone who deals with BIM and its possibilities will recognise the opportunities and risks.”
Rolf Werner, Director Application Engineering, Wieland, weighs in, saying that he believes that Germany is, in fact, lagging behind other countries in terms of automation, especially when it comes to BIM. However, Werner commends the platform’s ability to supply necessary data for an integrated process.

Enablers of energy efficiency

While the country still has some way to go, Damm says German companies’ commitment to sustainability has helped paved the way for manufacturers to be technological leaders, globally. “The applicable regulations and their enforcement in the market have a major influence on the use of sustainable technology outside the EU,” he says. “It is clear to see that numerous states in the Middle East are using ordinances and technical regulations as basis for buildings and technical building systems to become increasingly more efficient.”

To underscore his point, Damm says that in the first half of 2018, North Africa and the Middle East accounted for approximately three per cent of air-handling technologies’ total exports. Damm adds that sales of the German air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration technology industry are expected to grow by a total of five per cent in 2018. Calling German manufacturers, “enablers” in the sector, Damm says, it is only a matter of time before the efficiency wave also reaches farther regions of the world.

An Inadequate Reaction

“It’s still mainly business as usual,” says Daniel de Graaf, Scientific Assistant at the German Environment Agency, who believes that the air conditioning and refrigeration sector’s adoption of low-GWP refrigerants in the country remains inadequate. This, he says, is the case despite stakeholders encountering problems with procuring refrigerants owing to the European F-Gas Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 517/2014), citing recent reports of refrigerant theft to highlight the sense of desperation in the market. “We had a wake-up call, last year, when refrigerant prices went through the ceiling,” he says. “In January 2017, in Germany, you paid EUR 100 for 12.6 kg cylinder of R 134a. Now it’s EUR 600 or even more.” Regarding R-404A, which is the standard refrigerant for commercial uses, such as supermarket refrigeration, de Graaf says, the price hike was even more dramatic at approximately 1,000% in one year and a half.

De Graaf says that due to the CO2 equivalent based HFC phase down approach of the F-Gas Regulation, there is lack of clarity about the question, ‘Which refrigerant is future-proof for the European market and which is not?’ This becomes more obvious with prohibitions, which have been put down for some applications in Annex III of the F-gas Regulation, for example, for household or air conditioning appliances. “With portable air conditioners,” he explains, “you’re only allowed to sell appliances that use refrigerants with a GWP of 150 or less, from 2020 on. In this segment, you have a complete halt for HFCs, with prohibition of mini-splits containing refrigerants with a GWP of more than 750 from 2025.” But even more important, de Graaf stresses, is the prohibition to the placing on the market of stationary refrigeration plants using refrigerants with a GWP of more than 2,500, such as R-404A, starting from 2020.

While the F-Gas Regulation provides a framework to restrict the amount of HFC, de Graaf says it is up to the market to find the most economical solution. “The problem is people do not want to adopt accordingly, because sometimes it just blows away their business case,” he says. “If you sell chillers with HFCs and made a lot of money and you are told you have to use something else — propane or ammonia, for instance — that’s not what you had as a business case. This is especially true if you don’t only sell the chillers but also the HFC refrigerant for the chillers. Natural refrigerants are definitely no business case for HFC or HFO manufacturers.” Rolf Werner, Director, Application Engineering, Wieland, adds that for manufacturers, there is a lack of clarity on the type of refrigerant that will take the lead in the market. “We can see CO2 applications on the rise for supermarkets and buildings,” he says. “That’s clear, but for all of the other refrigerants, it’s quite unclear and uncertain.” Maciej Danielak, Export Sales Director, Kampann, weighs in, saying that the increasing prices of refrigerant have paved the way for water-based systems, which has seen an uptake, adding that the companies dealing with refrigerants are looking to complement and expand their portfolio.

Dr. Karin Jahn, Technical Manager, Sector department, Refrigeration and Heat Pump Technology, VDMA, believes that the current environmental policy framework in Germany is boosting the demand for climate-friendly solutions in the refrigeration sector, stressing that the European F-Gases Regulation and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol have triggered a lively discussion in the market about the use of various refrigerants, with renewed interest in natural alternatives.

De Graaf stresses that that there is further scope for natural refrigerants to be used, saying that manufacturers and end-users are settling for interim solutions that are unable to cope with looming targets. “R-32 is becoming more and more prominent in the market, when it comes to room air conditioners,” he says, “but R-32 still has a high GWP of 675. We need to get down to an average GWP of roughly 400 by 2030 — that’s still quite a gap to close. R-32 is not a final solution, but it’s what is marketed a lot right now in Germany and throughout Europe.”

Bottlenecks in the adoption of natural refrigerants, de Graaf says, can also be partially attributed to lack of training. Dr Jahn adds that many installers and workers are interested in converting existing refrigeration systems and ensuring the viability of future systems to be installed; however, the planning, installation and operation of systems with flammable refrigerants demands special legal expertise and safety-engineering know-how.

De Graaf believes craftsmen and technicians are the stakeholders that should be addressed, as they are the ones reluctant to move away from standard HVAC refrigerants and deal with flammable or toxic alternatives, with many apprehensive towards even R-32 appliances.

Dr Jahn remains optimistic, however, saying that the fundamentally high standard of training systems in Germany puts the industry in a very good position. “In principle, the training programmes in Germany are so broad that the graduates are familiar with all established refrigerant alternatives,” she says, “whether natural refrigerants, synthetic refrigerants or blends, and are able to pursue respective developments in refrigeration and air-conditioning companies.” Even so, Dr Jahn says that there remains a high demand for special seminars and courses to keep them up to date with the latest legislation and engineering developments.

De Graaf adds that, of late, there are a number of incentives, namely support programmes where end users can get money from the German government when opting for equipment with natural refrigerants. He also believes that investment into the development of new solutions with natural refrigerants makes economic sense for manufacturers, since they are F-Gas Regulation-proof also in the long run and outperform HFC as well as HFO equipment energetically. The latter is also important for end users, who accept higher initial investment costs when, due to lower energy costs, life cycle costs are equal or lower compared to HFC equipment.

Even with existing innovations, however, de Graaf expresses his concern at manufacturers’ reluctance towards introducing products to the market, citing instances wherein a manufacturer that received the German Blue Angel ecolabel certification for his product in March 2018, still refrained from introducing it to the market. “There are some other manufacturers, as well, for single split appliances with R-290 that still refrain from bringing them to the market because of the safety issue,” he says, “but they may be a little bit too cautious in this respect. In India, one such manufacturer sold 600,000 units, which are installed with no incident because technicians had proper training.” As such, de Graaf issues a plea to manufacturers that have solutions in their portfolio, “Please be a little braver in bringing your energy-efficient and climate- friendly solutions to the German and European market.”

Is Microsoft’s underwater data centre the future?

The Natick Phase One vessel was operated on the seafloor, approximately one kilometre off the Pacific coast of the United States, from August to November 2015. Thereafter the Phase Two vessel of Natickdeployed at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney Islands, United Kingdom, in June 2018, aims to demonstrate that you can economically manufacture full-scale undersea data centre modules and deploy them in under 90 days from decision to power on. Could you give us an insight into what prompted the company to launch Project Natick?

Project Natick reflects Microsoft’s ongoing quest for cloud data centre solutions that offer less resource intensive options, rapid provisioning, lower costs and high agility in meeting customer needs. Essentially, the project is focused on bringing about a cloud future that can help better serve customers in areas that are near large bodies of water, where nearly 50% of society resides. The vision of operating containerised data centres offshore, near major population centres, anticipates a highly interactive future which will require data resources located close to users. Deepwater deployment offers ready access to cooling and a controlled environment and has the potential to be powered by co-located renewable power sources.

From what we understand Natick data centres consume no water for cooling or any other purpose. Could you speak a little bit more about what makes this possible without compromising critical data components?

Seawater flows through heat exchangers within the data centre. The heat exchanger is like a car’s radiator, which uses cool air to cool the hot water flowing through the car’s engine. We’re the same, but we use water to cool air. Very little cooling is due to the walls of the vessel.

Modern building cooling systems, including data centres, use city tap water for cooling. This use of water greatly reduces the electricity required for cooling, but this water use can be significant. Natick puts no pressure on city water supplies and instead uses seawater, which is then returned directly to the ocean, unchanged.

Could you comment on the unique challenges that come with cooling large-scale electronics in this context and how the company addressed them?

Today, each land data centre is subject to local environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, particulate matter, building materials and electricity supply, which differ significantly across data centres and across seasons. Natick uses the same computers used to deliver our cloud services from land-based Microsoft data centres today and, as previously mentioned, because Natick data centres provide a sealed environment, we can use a nitrogen atmosphere, with no oxygen and very little water vapour. This reduces problems such as corrosion and allows us to provide the computers with the same operating environment, regardless of where in the world we deploy.

How could subsea data centres contribute to the growing dialogue of optimising resources in operations in a sustainable manner?

The project represents Microsoft’s investigation in the numerous potential benefits that a standard, manufacturable, deployable undersea data centre could provide to cloud users all over the world. If successful, we are on the quest for a future where cloud data centre solutions offer less resource-intensive options, rapid provisioning, lower costs and high agility in meeting customer needs.

Natick requires no footprint on land, which is a significant issue in some locations. Being offshore allows us to bring the cloud close to customers even without this footprint.

Because Natick is more energy efficient, we put less pressure on the electric grid. We are investigating the idea of co-locating Natick with its own locally generated renewable energy. In this kind of configuration, we would be off-grid. The Energy Information Administration says long-distance transmission typically costs 5 per cent of electrical power, so this reduces energy use while eliminating the need for long-distance transmission, including the transformers required in this process.

As noted earlier, Natick uses seawater and, hence, doesn’t require city water.  Drinking water is likely the most valuable resource in the 21st century.


A case of the market moving ahead of policy

North America generally does not shy away from participating in the dialogue on sustainability, with a number of well-known organisations, certification bodies and manufacturers paving the way for initiatives that promote greater energy efficiency within the built environment, not only across the continent but worldwide.

James Walters

James K. Walters, Vice President, International Affairs, Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), in identifying trends across North America, states that the work of standardisation bodies in this regard and the uptake of programmes, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) have helped moved the dial towards a more integrated approach in addressing building requirements. “We are supportive of climate change mitigation efforts,” Walters states. “We are supportive of rational energy-efficiency standards and of approaching them holistically.”

Mahesh Ramanujam

Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO, United States Green Building Council (USBC), believes that the trend towards more efficient buildings will persist, despite the viewpoint of incumbent powers, emphasising that policy decisions are no longer the sole driver impacting the progress of “Green”. As many as “88 of the Fortune 100 companies have mandated LEED as their global Green Building rating system,” he says. “It is a market-driven tool and a voluntary management tool – it’s not regulation.” Ramanujam says this extends to government organisations, with 400 municipalities, 32 states and 15 federal agencies in the United States mandating and recommending LEED as a best guideline and practice protocol. “This means two decades worth of change management that has happened, globally,” he says. “It has been integrated as part of the core strategy. Sustainability is no longer about being a nice thing to do.”

Giorgio Elia, Vice President, UTC CCS Middle East, shares the company’s history with LEED in this regard. “Carrier was the first company to join the U.S. Green Building Council in 1993,” Elia says, “and is the only company to be a founding member of Green Building councils on four continents, including in Argentina, China, France, India, Kuwait, Singapore and South Africa.” Carrier in the Middle East, he adds, is licensed as an Education Partner to train in the LEED curriculum and has trained more than 500 people in the region. Carrier’s Middle East headquarters in the UAE, he adds, is certified LEED Gold, while Carrier Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah office is certified LEED Platinum.

Saad Ali

Providing a manufacturer’s perspective, Saad Ali, General Manager – Middle East and Africa, SPX Cooling Technologies, says LEED certification is frequently a goal of designers of many North American buildings. He says: “Energy savings is a key driver for many companies, as well, so power consumption is declining. The impact of that will be evident in the next couple of years. Changes in government policies could impact these initiatives with fewer energy credits and subsidy programs available to companies for producing energy-efficient products for the market. But I think overall support for energy-efficient products will continue.”

James Connaughton

Regulations no longer seem to be a pre-requisite to encourage uptake and investment in energy-efficient technology, as James L. Connaughton, President and CEO, Nautilus Data Technologies, says. As an “ardent practitioner of free market environmentalism”, he believes a better product will always win out in the end. Connaughton, however, believes while government policy is not needed to encourage acceptance and investment of better products and solutions, it can play a role in hindering its advancement. This, he says, can happen by taking too long to permit more efficient and environmentally friendly technologies [to enter the market] and subsidising inefficient competitors. “That,” he says, “would not be helpful because government is providing our competitors with the economic advantage to improve their facilities.” Connaughton adds that while energy-efficiency standards are helpful in driving consumers and investors, they tend to work in favour of the incumbent. Thus, he says, they have to be designed appropriately so they can drive faster investment in economically beneficial outcomes and accomplish its objectives.

Ali says that while the rollback of some EPA clean energy rules by the current administration has caused headlines, it hasn’t deterred companies that develop HVAC products from continuing to pursue new technologies. “The recent paradigm shift in lighting serves as an example,” he says. “The introduction of LEDs as replacements for traditional incandescent light bulbs met with some consumer resistance. New technologies are often more expensive until they gain traction and acceptance.”

Kit Fransen

Kit Fransen, Director, Product Management, North America, Tecumseh, adds: “It’s no secret that there has been a shift in how buildings operate, as well as how people live and work in them. The sustainability movement is becoming more mainstream every day and plenty of manufacturers, including Tecumseh, look to reduce their overall environmental footprint, because it is shown to be profitable and drives innovation.” LEED and Green Globes, he says, are just a few programmes that were niche but now have become standard place in most building designs “as you can see with the continued integration of their requirements into ASHRAE or other international standards”. Fransen adds: “To meet these needs, manufacturers and end-users are now making investments with natural refrigerants such as hydrocarbons that require significant investment to operate equipment efficiently and safely. Before LEED or other ‘Green Building’ type standards, most people did not connect the dots regarding how much time we spend in commercial and industrial facilities that can impact our health as well as the world around us.” Ramanujam adds: “In the United States, Republicans and Democrats have disagreements on climate change and ‘Green’, but our growth was strong [even] during the Republican presidency. I’m hoping in the current trend we will grow more. Why? Because it provoked individual engagement, and that is what we are looking for.” LEED, he says, is about taking responsibility and accountability in saying “I want to go further and beyond”. Ramanujam says: “We don’t want somebody to tell us a regulation. We are going to do it, because we believe in it and we are going to push the envelope further. In a subtle way, it’s a good thing for the market, because people are going to do something about it.”

By popular demand

The market does, indeed, seem to be doing something about it, with manufacturers reporting an uptake in consumers showing more willingness to invest in a more efficient technology.

Ali emphasises that technological advancements owing to countries’ efforts to reduce reliance on petrochemicals inevitably cascades to other industries, especially HVAC, which, he stresses, is a high priority for building owners, given that it consumes as much as 70% of energy in commercial buildings. “Every consumer is looking for efficient HVAC units, with the best coefficient of performance and the least energy cost,” he says. “While environmental impact may not be their first consideration, some consumers want to balance energy efficiency with sustainability. Consumers are protected to some degree by regulations that restrict the use of refrigerants that damage the environment and so they know that available products must comply with a range of environmental standards.”

Robert Presser, Vice President, Acme Engineering and GlobeOwl Solutions, also says that he has seen more focus being placed on high-efficiency motors and VAV fans. “Twenty-five years ago, people will look at an air-handling unit and ask, ‘How many cfns?’ Now they look at an AHU and ask, ‘What is my cost to operate this?’ More than the acquisition, stakeholders are looking at life-cycle and operation.” This, he says, comes from building owners paying more attention, as there would be no incentive to choose such products unless otherwise specified.

Rakesh Saxena

Rakesh Saxena, President, Trimac Inc., says there has been an increasing demand for proper sealing of ductwork from building owners and mechanical HVAC construction engineers in North America. The current ASHRAE standard No. 90.1, he says, notes the impact of duct leakage on energy consumption and IAQ. “ASHRAE standards require a duct to be sealed to the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association’s Seal Class A regardless of pressure,” he says. “This means that all seams, except spiral lock seams, joints and penetration in medium- and low-pressure, return and exhaust ductwork must be properly sealed.”

Dean Wood

Speaking on increasing emphasis for energy efficient equipment in new build specifications, Dean Wood, Sales and Marketing Manager, Envira- North Systems, says HVLS fans are a common inclusion in all commercial, industrial and institutional buildings.  “More than anything local regulations and cost savings drive designs and purchasing decisions,” he says, adding that the company’s products have gone from a “possible inclusion to an integral component of most specifications”.

Stuart Engel

Stuart Engel, International Business Development, Fresh-Aire UV, says that owing to greater emphasis on energy conversation there has been an uptake in using UV to irradiate the cooling coils in HVAC applications. “Design engineers have realised that by including UV to irradiate cooling coils the end-user can benefit from the fact that the coils will remain clean and not become blocked by biofilm growing,” he says.

Walter Ellis

Walter Ellis, Executive Vice President and General Manager, RGF Environmental Group, echoes this.  “Studies show the correlation of continuous UV treatment of coil surfaces to prevent microbial fouling of the coils,” he says, “and how this technology,in turn, reduces the associated loss of heat transfer efficiency due to the bio-fouled coils.  As well as energy-recovery systems specific for fresh air makeup systems.  These are primarily focused on industrial and commercial markets, with some more progressive adoption in the consumer market.” Engel says, “Depending on the cost of electricity, installing UV on cooling coils can save between 15 and 25% of the annual HVAC energy cost and virtually eliminate having to manually clean the coils. Payback time for installing UV will depend in part on the cost of power, annual operating and cooling hours and will normally be between two and 11 months.”

Sean Holloway, National Sales Manager HVACR, RectorSeal LLC, says the company continues to see greater emphasis towards energy efficiency across North America, in particular, for variable-speed compressors for residential applications, variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology for commercial applications, and mini-split applications for both residential and light-commercial applications. The company, he says, is aiming to address the demand by helping contractors with accessories to encourage building and homeowners to opt for mini-split and VRF/VRV systems. “More and more individuals,” he says, “are willing to pay more up front, for higher efficiency equipment in order to use less energy, and have less negative impact on the environment in the long run.”

Fransen says that while the past decade has seen Energy Star, LEED, and other programmes push for lower energy use intensity (EUI) in all building types, reduction in energy use for commercial refrigeration has only begun “due to the tackling of “low-hanging fruit” in energy consumption such as lights, HVAC, and process loads.” This, however, is beginning to change. “Recent governmental regulations, such as requirements for walk-in coolers and freezers from the US Department of Energy with a mandated performance level of Annual Walk-In Energy Factor (AWEF) is just the first of many requirements where energy performance will become more regulated in the commercial refrigeration market place,” he says. “Technologies, such as variable-speed components, including fans and compressors, in addition to control strategies such as floating head pressure control will become more common in refrigeration system design.” Fransen adds that in staying abreast with upcoming standards to develop new products surrounding mandated and voluntary programmes, Tecumseh sees variable speed compressors and systems as well as low-GWP refrigerants transitioning over to the commercial market “once energy standards and regulations become more prevalent across the globe”.

Industry 4.0

Another key trend Walters identifies in North America is the growing move towards the use of air conditioning and water heating equipment that are connected and able to talk to the grid and electricity supplier, relative to adjusting supply with demand. “It’s not an on-and-off switch,” he says. Fransen echoes this, adding that the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices are quickly changing the way consumers use products, and that the company sees a similar trend in the commercial refrigeration market. “More and more components are connected, which helps end-users with a variety of different tasks, to simplify their work,” he says. “Regarding refrigeration components, some examples could be a means to show diagnostics for quick servicing or a web-based predictive analysis tool that would show when components in a system may potentially fail based on specific parameters.”

Presser adds that LEED certification also plays a role in this. “When you choose to get LEED certification for a building,” he says, “you incorporate a lot of intelligent energy controls.” However, he says, no one is dictating the backbone communication architecture to be used, whether it is an HVACR standard or an industry open standard. Presser says that the adoption of LEED certification will promote greater building intelligence and technology, but that the industry still has a long way to go.

The industry, Presser says, is currently promoting a standard that does not interface with technologies coming into buildings and devices and that he sees a move towards an international standard of communication in the HVACR space. “My feeling,” he says, “is that eventually product developers are going to take a look at the HVACR space and come with an open standard product that will ensure lower cost and ease of connectivity, which will displace proprietary technologies. You also have to realise you have a huge installed space, the opportunity will be when you look at existing buildings and you want to add intelligence. Who will win?”

Ali says that being one of the biggest retrofit markets, North America may be a little ahead of the rest of the world, in terms of planning for maintenance. “Along with new development and construction, there is a lot of renovation, where older buildings are updated and using the latest technologies,” he says. “Predictive maintenance comes into play here. You may have a LEED-certified building equipped with the latest equipment with IoT technology to communicate building conditions 24/7. Without careful monitoring, regular inspection and diligent maintenance, the initial energy efficiency will decline dramatically over the next five years.”

Maintenance, Ali stresses, is an essential component to successful energy management. He adds that though North America is a huge continent with diverse climates and with each state having its own mindset, regulations, capabilities and budget to maintain infrastructure, building owners are more or less aware of the important role that maintenance plays in ensuring a healthier environment, better indoor air quality and better, energy- efficient buildings. “If you are a building manager or owner of commercial real estate,” he says, “that would be in your mindset in order to compete in the marketplace.”

Ali adds that building owners and equipment suppliers need to work together to conduct energy audits and implement ongoing maintenance programmes. “Right now,” he says, “follow up is often lacking, whether it’s in North America, Asia or in the Middle East.”

While HVACR manufacturers in North America navigate the demands of the local market, most operate in a largely international market and grapple with the changing winds of an increasingly globalised and inter-connected consumer base.

‘The real value of District Energy is seen over a long-term basis’

Jim Lodge

Could you comment on the uptake of District Cooling in the Middle East region? Do you see an opportunity for the region to drive the growth of District Cooling to a level similar to that in Denmark?

In Denmark, District Heating is just expected. It’s something in their culture for so many years. If you’re getting electricity for your building, most people don’t think of generating it themselves. They would go to the utility supplier and get it. It’s an integral part of the infrastructure, so when people think of doing their building, the first thing they think about is whether there is a network out there. That’s just what they would do; it’s sort of a natural instinct.

I think cooling in the Middle East is getting there, too. I contrast that to the United States and District Cooling/Heating – it is a much smaller slice of that effort, it’s more surprising that there would even be a system. Many times, when people are developing a building, they’re not even thinking about District Energy development in the area; they just think there is the building and they think of putting their own cooling equipment or heating equipment in.  

Is it because of diversity of geography?

A little bit. If developers are familiar with the local area, then they’ll know about it, if it’s there. But if they’re new to the area, then they may not know, and it may not be something they consciously think about. What I do say for people that want to go on District Energy, in general, too often people want to jump into the economics of it, instead of looking at it and saying qualitatively, “What does this do for me?”

In my experience, if I talked to people about the value of using District Energy, and they understand it and they go, “I like that, those values resonated with me”, that’s more than half the battle won, because if people want it, then they look at the economics, which they always have to do, to justify it. More often, if someone hasn’t gone through the process of understanding the benefits of District Energy, and I’m not talking about true financial ones, then, they may be more apt to say, “I’m not feeling comfortable”, and when you do the finances because you’re doing something over a longer period of time, it’s really easy, if you don’t want it, to put the numbers in the spreadsheet in the right way, so the economics don’t make sense. But if you want it, then you will do more investigation to make sure you have an accurate assumption of the financial model. District Energy is very different from having your own system, and too often people want to compare it to that, but it’s like a different type of car. Yes, you drive both cars, but a Ferrari is very different from a Volkswagen, and I’m not saying we are the Ferrari, but I’m not saying we are the Volkswagen, either. The quality and reliability of District Energy is significantly better than individual building systems, and when someone talks of the total cost of the development and all the operating cost over the life of the building, District Energy is relatively small in scale, compared to that.

In the United States, we have seen many customers, where we have had contracts. If someone is looking at an investor building to resell it, we have seen District Energy is a benefit, because when you have a building that is being sold and you have liabilities associated with the central plant, where people take capital investment, that is an added cost an investor is later going to top, whereas if you have a District Energy system, as long as the contract is understood, from a market standpoint, it is competitive. The new owner picks it up, and we have had new buildings in our system exchange hands multiple times with developers.

Ultimately, it’s the utility providers’ responsibility to communicate the financial value and the soft items that are more qualitative in nature. 

What are the paybacks?

Payback is not the right metric. It’s important to talk to CFOs – those interested in capital and operating expenses – and then you have to do a lifecycle cost analysis. That’s going to look at what their ultimate cost will be, both on the capital and the operating side, for an extended period of time, which would typically be 25-30 years because of the lifespan of equipment. The challenge comes when most people can look at capital cost, because they can get estimates of that nature. It is very hard for people or buildings to have a good history of the 30-year operating and maintenance expenses for the District Energy company. District Energy should win if people have done their job every single time, and the reason they should win is, if you think about it, if the overall cost is the same in the long run, why would I want to take the risk associated with operating my own plant? Because if I have risk associated with that, that is added cost. District Energy systems remove all the risk associated with reliability of service equipment, failures and construction costs. No one is taking on that risk. If someone brings a brand new building, we are taking construction risk associated with the mechanical equipment.

How much goodwill do District Energy providers have in the United States? Has that value of District Energy been revealed to more stakeholders, or do you feel more work has to be done in that regard?

I think a lot of work has to be done. I don’t think people recognize that at all. There are some customers that do. If the District Energy company is doing a good job in communicating with them and being able to let them know some of the things they are doing, they will recognize that. The challenge is that too many of the customer representatives of those buildings don’t stay very long. It gets tough, because the real value of District Energy with that goodwill is seen over a long-term basis. When you think about it, if you buy a new car, the first few years it works perfectly fine. Like leasing, it goes back. You never experience holding on to it for 20 years, because the last 10 years, maybe the last five years, the contract is the most challenging. That’s when you have to run your own equipment, you have lots of failures, you have an issue trying to extend the life. You don’t have that with District Energy. With District Energy, you are paying someone else, you are supplying reliable cooling there every day – out of sight and out of mind.

I would say District Energy companies and their employees tend to be long-term, the customer buildings tend to have higher turnover, so it’s harder to have people recognize some of that goodwill you’re talking about.

‘A wider pool of HVACR specialists, who understand the needs of museums, would be very advantageous’

Ellen Pearlstein

Could you provide us with an overview on how the optimum climate can ensure the longevity of art pieces or cultural objects in museums, libraries and archives?

There has been an interesting history in the consideration of climate in museums and the impact of climate in museum collection, because there was a very important book published in 1978 by a British author, named Gary Thompson – it’s called The Museum Environment. That book was important in influencing the entire English-speaking world, and it outlined the kind of research done at that point in time. The book was divided into two halves – one was designed for energy engineers, and the other half was for conservation [specialists], who care for collections. It was a very forward-looking book.

The outcome of that book was that some climate specifications were created for temperature and humidity, 21 degrees C and 50% relative humidity, respectively. Those were taken as unyielding standards and accepted by people who cared for collections, because people understood this to be something that was important for their preservation. However, the realization that has been made since the publication of that book is that not every region in the world has the same outdoor environment, so trying to achieve the indoor environment that may be appropriate for a more humid country like England, or a city like London, might not be appropriate for a museum built in a dry part of the world [with] desert climate. The realization that the region in which the actual museum or collection resides is particularly important as a variable, has taken place.

The next thing is that materials that comprise museum objects include a whole range of different materials, and those materials don’t behave in exactly the same way in response to temperature and relative humidity. So, for example, archaeological [objects] that have been buried in salty water have been subject to salts remaining in the materials. When those materials are moved into museums, the salts left behind can be very reactive and responsive to changes in relative humidity. We know archaeological metals and ceramics and some stone materials can have particular sensitivities, and certain kinds of archaeological and historical glass have particular sensitivities, and other materials like ivory and wood are sensitive to changes in relative humidity.

I would say in the last 25 years, more research has been done, and continuing research is going on now, to look at exactly what kind of damage is created when you did not have tightly controlled temperature and relative humidity. One major study was by the Smithsonian Institution in the United States, another by the Canadian Conservation Institute and yet another significant study was by Getty in Los Angeles, called ‘Managing Collection Environment’, and all of the studies are designed to look at whether, or not, you can safely relax the climate standards for museums, so that the relative humidity could be actually 35-60%. There is wide agreement that 1) it depends on the climate where the museum is, because collections acclimate to the environment they are in to a certain extent, and 2) it depends on what are the collection materials, and 3) everyone agrees that the most important thing is to only permit change in relative humidity, if it happens gradually. What is dangerous for a collection is one day your relative humidity is 15% and the next day it’s 60%, because that’s a very dramatic shift.

In view of the research that has been carried out on the effects of relative humidity and temperature, has there been a move to develop minimum standards that global or regional museums, and similar developments, would have to comply with? Or is it mostly an independent move by galleries that impose their own quality standards for their collections?

It’s a good question. So, museums develop their own standards, and they work to comply with those standards. As you might imagine, standards for climate become crucial when one museum lends materials to another museum. If the Louvre maintains a certain climate for materials and sends them to Abu Dhabi, they are going to be very aware of how the museum in Abu Dhabi maintains the climate around those collections, so museums are very active in developing loan documents, and they specify climate within those loan documents.

Also, in 2014, the ‘Declaration on Environmental Guidelines’ on the museum environment was endorsed by two professional organisations. One is called ‘International Institute for Conservation’ and the other is ‘International Council on Museums – Conservation Committee’. The Declaration is available online; it actually redefines the international standards.  

In such cases, management is very aware of the importance of implementing these standards in terms of building design and equipment choice, but, given the unique requirements, are the FM and operations personnel aware and properly trained on these issues, as well?

It is a case-by-case basis. I would say larger museums with larger operating budgets – they do have a facilities manager, who has a certain kind of sensitivity to the task of preserving the collection. They understand that the climate and HVAC systems installed need to be those that can be adjusted to maintain a safe climate for the collection.

I have visited smaller museums that don’t have the expertise or the resources to necessarily support the kinds of climate requirements that museums demand. Also, there are individuals who create their own specialization – they tend to be HVAC engineers and HVAC specialists with a particular interest in museums and libraries and archives, places that hold important collections. They then can be hired by smaller institutions that don’t have their own expertise in-house. Or they can hire those experts to work with FM that they do have on staff, who may want more information about the specialized needs.

I think, in particular, having a wider pool of educated HVAC specialists, who understand the needs of museums and collection, would be very advantageous. It would help smaller museums that cannot have these people on staff. 

Do you believe that a collaborative approach would move the dial in terms of cultivating more specialists who are aware of the unique requirements of such a development?

Yes, I see more room for collaboration. I think it would be beneficial if facilities engineers were open to working with conservators and curators and collections managers, because there’s a lot we can learn from each other. I always try to invite a facilities engineer into my class and have them talk about how they make decisions, so my students can be in dialog with them. I put collections people and facilities people in dialog.

An uncompromising stance

Italy’s relentless compliance with the European Union’s broader environmental targets is in the process of reshaping the HVACR sector in the country, with Andrea Guderzo, General Manager, Clivet Mideast FZCO, emphasising that the decarbonisation of the EU has created a new set of challenges and opportunities for the market in the country, as well as in the rest of Europe.

In agreement was Salah Eldeeb, AREA Export and Sales Manager, Castel, who says that there has been increasing demand for products that can accommodate new refrigerants with lower GWP in view of the F-Gas Regulation. “Everybody is focusing on these new regulations,” he says. “Within 2020, all HCFCs will be abandoned completely, so new projects and productions are going in with the new refrigerants.” Guderzo adds that the regulation has also led to a significant increase in the price of refrigerants and that those containing CFCs have already been withdrawn from circulation. “Today’s refrigerants may no longer be comparable with these, but their potential for harm cannot be ignored,” he says, emphasising that it is necessary to undertake step-by-step phase-down in refrigerants with a high-GWP.

Francesco Mastrapasqua, Marketing Manager, Refrigeration Systems, Epta, adds that the huge increase in price and the dramatic cut in the availability in the market, owing to F-Gas Regulation, has made every stakeholder consider very carefully the refrigerant for future applications. The market conditions created by these regulations, Guderzo says, has been driving innovation among HVACR manufacturers in Italy. As a temporary solution, he says, a number of producers are delivering units addressed to non-EU countries without refrigerants to cut down costs, which, he says, merely postpones the problem. However, Guderzo stresses that most producers are taking a more long-term approach by investing significantly in R&D to adopt new refrigerants, especially R-32, for small capacity units, which, he says is the same direction Clivet is taking. “Our company is facing the refrigerant challenge with great research and development work,” Guderzo says. “The first step is to adopt R32 refrigerant for units with inverter and scroll compressor for the medium- and low-capacity units. In the meantime, a joint task force involving the R&D units of Clivet and Midea, is developing new solutions using R1234ze refrigerant for high-capacity chillers. We are also studying to decrease overall the maximum quantity of refrigerant and the use of other low-GWP gases, especially for the medium-capacity chillers.”

The paradigm shift is especially palpable in the refrigeration sector, where Mastrapasqua says, natural refrigerants are being viewed as key to futureproofing equipment. “The refrigeration market in Italy is placing maximum importance on natural refrigeration solutions,” he says, adding that the company has, thus, ensured its scope of products offers a large variety of natural solutions. “The main technological trend and development have been for small-capacity systems; self-contained product adoption based on hydrocarbons, namely propane; and larger systems, which tend to be based on C02 for direct expansion market in Italy.” There has been strong determination in the market to adopt to this trend, he adds, as they are in accordance with F-Gas Regulation and Eco-Design Regulation. Mirko Travaglin, Marketing Manager Refrigeration – EMEA Region, Carel, seconds this, saying that in Europe, the use of natural refrigerants has mainly been implemented with trans-critical CO2 systems, which has, today, become a standard solution.

Bottlenecks in adoption: training

While the adoption of manufacturers is undeniable, Mastrapasqua says the main bottleneck for more widespread adoption is related to availability of skilled personnel that can ensure the performance and facilitate in the installation, commissioning and overall service of products with natural refrigerants. “There is still a need for training,” he says. “Despite all activities in place, the industry is still not coping with the demand. Still, competence and specific training is somehow a barrier in the adoption.”

Mastrapasqua says the industry, as a whole, has to work together to remedy this, in two aspects. “Aftersales service is one side,” he said. “On the other side is the need to provide simplified technology in our systems to fight against the very complexity of natural systems and provide the market with a product that eliminates all concerns.” Secondly, Mastrapasqua says the industry must take a more proactive stance towards training. Epta has made a move in this regard, with the recent inauguration of the Training Center for Refrigeration Experts, in Italy, which, the company says, is the only professional school in Italy to train future refrigeration technicians according to UNI EN 13313 and the first school in Europe, where a small store has been set up with trans-critical CO2 technology, made available by Epta. Costing over EUR 500,000 of investments and donations, the Training Center, the company says, was set up by the professional institute, ASLAM, together with the Assocold and Assofrigoristi associations, to address growing need for skilled expert to manage new natural refrigerants, which are the solutions of the future.

On the inauguration, Marco Nocivelli, Chairman and CEO of Epta and Chairman of Assocold, says: “Italy boasts a wealth of technical expertise in refrigeration and climate control. Passing that expertise on to young people will make a positive contribution towards increasing the success of the national system as a whole. The creation of the Institute bears tangible witness to our social commitment and our faith in the younger generations. It will allow them to achieve preparation of a high standard for a profession, which is increasingly in demand. The training is geared towards the future and will allow young people to become successful expert technicians that can provide effective responses to the challenges posed by constant technological progress, and by European and international regulations.”

Eldeep echoes the importance of proper training, saying that Castel, as an OEM provider, with 75% of its products compatible for refrigeration and only 25% going to air conditioning segment, is taking on a consultancy role to companies and providing assistance to develop products according to regulations. “We conduct a lot of seminars because of this, not only with the manufacturers but also with installers and maintenance,” he says. This, he says, has been especially vital, owing to the number of retrofits related to refrigerants. “In Italy,” he says, “new products and machines are going towards new refrigerants, but people have to know how they work. That is our role. We have to help them understand how it works and the difference between all the refrigerants for new technology and old technology.”

The need for skilled workforce, Matrapasqua says, is thoroughly recognised by the government, which has implemented a more stringent enforcement scheme for refrigerant management. “In Italy, we had the adoption of a new law, entering into force January of this year for the training and certification of equipment providers and refrigerant installation companies,” he says. “Contractors and services companies have to be certified to be allowed to perform any activity related to the refrigeration system. This is not new for our market in Italy. For several years, we have this requirement of certification; only, the process of training and certification is more strict, structured and more reinforced than ever before.”

The same law, Matrapasqua says, states that any official information related to operations performed on an F-Gas System will be downloaded in the country’s main database. “Whatever you do on an F-Gas system, whether you charge, adjust or check leakage of refrigeration, the details must be properly transmitted to the national database for a better control of these F-Gas refrigerants,” he says. “Laws and regulations on F-gas are more and more strict to ensure perfect control. If you choose natural refrigerants, there are less obligations and controls, so there is very strong discrimination in Italy. Of course, this drives the market to choose much easier refrigerants than F-Gas.”

Mastrapasqua believes that the narrative surrounding refrigerants in Europe is only the beginning of a trend that is already going global. “We believe the market is going to accept, more and more, natural refrigeration and CO2 systems, because they are the only sustainable solution for the future,” he says, with F-Gas, in Europe, and Kigali amendment, worldwide, driving forces in this direction.

Travaglin offers an example, as Carel, taking the key learnings from operations in Europe has released EmJ (Electronic Modulate Ejector) as the latest solution to allow trans-critical CO2 systems to work even in high-temperature climates. “In the Middle East,” he says, “close cooperation between Carel and the main OEMs in the region has created the opportunity to develop the first C02 supermarket, an UNIDO project in Amman, and a new supermarket in Masdar city in Abu Dhabi.”

Mastrapasqua says the industry is working towards making the system available and applicable globally. There will be a natural progression, more or less, everywhere in the world, he says. “Of course, at different times,” he admits, “but sooner or later, this is going to be accepted as the only solution.”


China eyes a larger MEA footprint

Ten air conditioners will be sold per second in the next 30 years, says Moan Abraham, Vice President and General Manager for Air Conditioning, Hisense Middle East, quoting a key figure in the International Energy Agency’s “The Future of Cooling” report. The report forecasted that the global air conditioner market will grow from 1.6 billion to 5.6 billion by 2050. For Abraham, while the figure offers tremendous potential, it also poses a challenge for HVAC manufacturers, stressing that if the industry does not opt for energy-efficient systems from now on, the scenario in 2050 could be quite challenging with regard to heavy consumption. Abraham believes Chinese manufacturers could be well positioned to address this growing demand, with regard to both scale and energy efficiency.

Based on customs data published by the Chinese government, Abraham says that China is already taking a big portion of the air conditioning business, globally and that the number continues to grow for all major players. Mark Wang, General Manager of International Sales, Chigo, says the overall growth of China’s HVAC industry is expected to be around five per cent. Abraham says that Hisense alone has been able to increase its export shares by 50% in the last three years.

To further underscore the scale of Chinese exports, Abraham says that in 2018 alone, around 50 million sets were exported from China. In 2019, Abraham says, it is expected that 4.14 million units will be exported to the Middle East, and 3.19 million units to Africa. “If China is exporting [around] 50 million sets, and the Middle East and Africa is taking around 7.5 million sets, that’s a significant portion that the region is accounting for,” he says.

Growing presence in Middle East and Africa

Abraham says that the Middle East and African markets have been showcasing greater appreciation for Chinese brands. Gleaning from Hisense’s own experience in the region, Abraham says that in the past, the company was largely an OEM player but that since it has been focusing on its own brand, Hisense has achieved a good market share in the last 3-4 years. This, Abraham says, is owing to several reasons. First, he points to the gradual shift in public opinion. “The quality perception of China-made products have changed today,” he says. “You have government entities specifying China-made products – this means confidence. Basically, the quality and performance of Chinese ACs and brands have been quite high-end in the last few years. People are now recognising that the quality is next to none.” Secondly, Abraham points to affordability owing to economies of scale. “It’s not about buying low-cost products,” he says. “The product is more affordable, so people can buy. Again, the purchasing power increases and the affordability has come.” Abraham also points to reliability, stressing that Chinese brands’ move to partner with notable local companies has enhanced after-sales and maintenance services. Lastly, Abraham stresses that China has the capability to manufacture in big volumes, which allows it to remain competitive in big markets.

Abraham says that this offers a good opportunity for Chinese brands, as the demand will continue to grow, not only globally, as per forecasts, but in the region, as well, owing to a reduction in lifecycle of air conditioners, especially in residential applications. This, he says, can be attributed to three main factors: “Number one, it is exposed to harsh environments. The AC is taking a big beating in terms of performance. Also, usage – people are looking for extreme cooling.” In this regard, Abraham says there is a need to enhance consumer awareness with regard to moderate temperatures setting. “People want a set-point temperature of 16 degrees C,” he says. “This is bad for health and energy consumption. Some countries are putting some regulations, especially in Egypt, which limited thermostat setting to 20 degrees C. If regulation comes, you need to limit temperature setting to a certain level, and you can increase the efficiency   and life of ACs.”

Another cause for the reduction in life of air conditioners, Abraham says, is the lack of skilled personnel handling the maintenance of AC equipment in residential units. The third bottleneck, Abraham says, is the cost of repair as well as the response time of relevant personnel in the event there is a need for product replacements. “In peak season in the GCC region, a new air conditioner can be installed in 24 hours,” he says. “But if you have complaint relating to compressor failure, you may have to wait for 2-3 days.”

Opportunities in emerging market: Spotlight on Iraq

Chinese manufacturers are showing increasing interest in Middle East and Africa; however, it is not solely owing to the potential pipeline of projects. The growing importance the countries in the region is placing on energy efficiency has also piqued the interest of Chinese brands, which have become well-versed in navigating increasingly stringent regulations in China. Abraham says that in China, the government has cracked down on the supply chain of components to ensure that products meet certain environmental standards in view of the country’s commitment to the Paris Accord, leading to a spike in cost of products, as companies need to maintain certain standards of production. Sharing his observations on trends in China, Wang adds that the VRF market is also continuing to grow at good rate, and the proportion of VRFs, compared to conventional systems, will increase. Abraham echoes this, saying that in China, VRF systems are being sold in the market like a consumer product and that there are quality training systems for those entering the service industry.

A number of Chinese companies are leveraging this experience to address shifting standards in the region. Wang says: “With the enactment of Saudi Arabia’s new SASO energy efficiency standard, Bahrain and Oman have successively issued energy efficiency regulations similar to SASO. Kuwait has also raised the T4 energy efficiency standard that is expected to be implemented in September 2019.” As customers pay more and more attention to energy saving, Wang says, designers and consultants will also take this aspect into consideration when selecting air-conditioning systems, especially in green projects and government tenders. “The technical threshold of products is the basic requirement,” Wang says. “We are actively responding by the timely launch of related products.”

Wang says that in addition to key markets, such as Saudi Arabia, Chigo is committed towards reinforcing its presence in markets such as Syria, Palestine and, particularly, Iraq. “The political situation in Iraq from 2017 to 2018 has gradually stabilised and reconstruction has started,” he says. Wang adds that although there are challenges in the country, it will not be enough to stall the momentum the Iraqi market is undergoing, adding that the local market is evolving into a promising VRF market. Abraham echoes this, saying that as Iraq continues to develop an increasingly stable government, it will look to provide its citizens with basic services that will require further infrastructure, such as housing. “Those will be good drivers for most of the suppliers,” Abraham says. “If you look at Iraq today, 95% of what is imported is from China, and Iraq is a tough environment in terms of climate, so quality should be at the high end in order to gain the market in Iraq.”

Abraham says that for the most part, the Iraq market provides an even playing field for most suppliers, but that the differentiating factor is the partner of choice. “Local partner distributors’ knowledge in the market and relationships will play an important part in the development,” he says.

Speaking with regard to the goals of Hisense, Abraham says that the company aims to be named one of the top three brands in the next five years in the air conditioning category. The company aims to do this, he says, by offering innovative products, energy-efficient solutions and focusing on customer satisfaction, in addition to ensuring product quality, cooling performance and reduced downtime, all which will help in the company’s efforts to gain further market share. This, he says, is part of a brand’s evolution and part of its unfolding global narrative as a Chinese manufacturer taking on the global market. “It’s a journey,” he says. “You cannot build the Great Wall of China wall in one day.”

USD 25 bn Al Faisaliah Project to provide 995,000 housing units by 2050

Dubai, UAE, 21 March 2019: The USD 25 billion Al Faisaliah Project in Saudi Arabia will play a vital role in the country’s move to diversify its economy, said Faizal Babu Pallathody, Managing Director, VTS Clima, naming the project as one of the key developments that will cultivate private-sector engagement as part of Saudi Vision 2030. Pallathody said the city, spanning 2,450 square kilometres, will be located in the western part of Makkah, starting from the Haram boundary and will extend up to the Red Sea coast of Al-Shuaiba in the west. “The project is a giant extension of the Holy City of Makkah and will provide 995,000 housing units and accommodate 6.5 million people by 2050,” he said.

Pallathody said that the country is proactive in its efforts to transform its economy and move to a post-oil era, underpinned by ambitious mega-projects, such as NEOM, which aims to boost foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. The USD 500 billion industrial zone of NEOM, Pallathody said, will feature a 26,500-square-kilometre business zone that will link Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan and aims to be a futuristic hub for both industry and citizens.

Italy pavilion for EXPO 2020 aims to tackle global sustainability challenges, says ambassador

Dubai, UAE, 20 March 2019: The Italian tradition is a mix between beauty and function, said His Excellency Liborio Stellino, Ambassador of Italy to the UAE, following a special preview of the Italian Pavilion for EXPO 2020, presented by Carlo Ratti, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Founding Partner, Carlo Ratti Associati, and one of the architects that designed the Pavilion during Italian Design Day on March 19, at the American University in Dubai. Stellino stressed that legacy is an important element driving Italy’s participation in EXPO 2020 and that the Pavilion aims to showcase key learnings related to food safety and security and future energy gained from previous Expos in a bid to address the global challenge facing sustainability in a more holistic manner.

Providing a brief history on the country’s long-standing commitment towards sustainable practices, Stellino said: “The importance of energy started in 1973, when we had the first oil crisis. From the time, we tackled problems of energy efficiency, we developed a lot of techniques, technologies and expertise. Today, in Italy, despite the lack of oil and natural resources, we save 20% [of electricity], thanks to better efficiency of buildings.”

Stellino said that despite being associated with classic and traditional buildings, Italy has made great strides in integration of technology for modern infrastructure, owing to the expertise of the engineering and architectural community, stressing that innovation is in their DNA. “The close link between entrepreneurship and art has oriented our design in a more functional way,” Stellino said. Ratti discussed the vital role sustainable cooling plays in modern infrastructure, adding that while the Italian pavilion will be generally cooled using air conditioning, there is a move to incorporate passive cooling design elements to make the most of the time of the year, when the UAE has cooler temperatures.

French energy companies eye Middle East market

Citing the fact that many countries in the Middle East region are placing greater importance on improving energy efficiency and setting definitive targets related to renewable energy, Manoel Zenon, Trade Advisor, Infrastructures, Transport Industry, Business France, said that he believes French companies are well positioned to provide the technical knowledge and expertise required to achieve the regional public sector’s ambitious targets. Zenon said this is owing to the experience small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in France have in navigating stringent environmental requirements in Europe, which he said, they are eager to share with the regional market.

Vinoth Ramanujam, Regional Sales Director, AEG, represents one such company. Sharing the company’s history in the region’s renewable energy sector, Ramanujam said that AEG was active in solar projects around seven years ago but that the influx of competitors from the east did not allow them to be competitive and that the company is now concentrating on UPS systems, with a solar division focusing on grid and storage applications. On whether energy storage will see the same downturn in price as solar panels, Ramanujam said that the main challenge is to educate people in the market to move away from “20-year-old specifications” and put a premium on quality over cost.

Julien Pariat, Commercial Exports, Obstra, echoed the importance of educating the market to move away from conventional design specifications, saying that this is the main hurdle the company faces as a supplier of surge-protection modules for sensitive equipment. He said that the company aims to work with end-users and consultants during the specification and design stage to highlight its value as an additional layer of protection for sensitive equipment in critical applications, such as hospitals and data centres. The added cost, he stressed, pales in comparison to the cost of repairing damage and downtime from loss of services. “Not having it means there is risk of damage and premature ageing of sensitive equipment,” he said, adding that this extends to HVAC equipment, which is particularly vital for operations of infrastructure in the region.

ACR Project Consultants aims to drive Green cold chain applications across India

Arvind Surange

Pune, India, 19 March 2019: ACR Project Consultants has placed a strong focus on the cold chain sector over the last 30 years, said Arvind Surange, CMD. It was while working on large number of cold chain projects, Surange said, that the company realised the need for integrating Green design concepts in the sector. “We introduced this concept in 2008 and have been promoting it at a global level, highlighting the importance of environment friendliness, energy efficiency, water saving, waste heat recovery, application of renewable energy and other green features,” he said.

Surange said that realising the importance of natural refrigerants, ACR took the lead in designing the first few low-charge Ammonia DX systems in India for cold storage projects. He said: “The basic features of these are: Ammonia charge reduction; compact and lightweight equipment; full automation, including use of electronic expansion valve; and air-cooled or water-cooled setup, based on water availability.

Providing an example of one of the company’s Green projects, Surange pointed to the integrated cold chain facility of Savla Foods and cold storage in Navi Mumbai, which includes recycling of water, waste heat recovery for generating hot water for processing, along with other Green features. He added that the project was named Best Green Cold Chain Solution by the Cold Chain and Logistics Industry in 2017 and Best Food Processing and Cold Chain Project by RefCold India Emerson Awards in 2018.

In addition to this, Surange said, the latest projects the company is working on involve PEB structure with insulated panel enclosures, mechanised loading and unloading systems, eco-friendly and energy-efficient refrigeration and electrical systems, water-saving techniques and full automation. “These projects,” he said, “have been implemented in right from the northern to the southern and from the eastern to the western regions of the country.”

GCCA invites stakeholders to participate in Million Cool Roofs Challenge

Arlington, Virginia, United States, 21 March 2019: The Global Cool Cities Alliance (GCCA) is inviting stakeholders to participate in the Million Cool Roofs Challenge, which will award USD 1 million to the team most successful in spurring the installation of a million square metres of cool roofs by the end of 2020, said Kurt Shickman, Executive Director, GCCA.

Shickman added, “The Million Cool Roofs Challenge is aimed at providing a billion-plus people globally that economically and physically won’t have access to mechanical or electrical cooling, with cooling through passive means.” A project of the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP), in collaboration with the Global Cool Cities Alliance, Sustainable Energy for All and Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, the Challenge aims to “promote sustainable cooling through the rapid scaling of cool roofs in countries, where large numbers of people are facing heat stress risks”.

Elaborating on the mechanics, Shickman said that up to 10 teams will be given grants worth USD100,000 to deploy solar-reflective coating and materials in developments within an eligible country between August 2019 and December 2020. Eligible countries, he said, are those that are signatories of the Kigali amendment. The winning team that will be able to successfully spur the installation of a million square metres of cool roofs by the end of 2020 and meet the judging criteria will be awarded USD 1 million by 2021. According to the GCCA website, materials should also meet minimum performance standards and be applied to roofs of buildings regularly occupied by people.

Shickman said that the grants aim to boost market awareness and performance of cool roofs, globally. Since the announcement, Shickman said, there has been strong expression of interest from both public- and private-sector organisations. Shickman stressed that applications for the grants are still open and that teams from eligible countries can submit completed entry forms until May 20.

For more information on the eligibility, judging criteria and how to apply, visit:

Banner - CCGD
Banner - RBG
Copyright © 2024 - CPI Industry, Dubai - UAE. All rights reserved.